Proposition 12

Proposition 12 background

California Proposition 12, or “Prop 12,” is a ballot initiative adopted into that state’s law after 63% of voters there approved it in the 2018 election. Prop 12 officially took effect in California on Jan. 1, 2024, after a series of legal challenges culminated in a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the law. 

The measure prohibits in California sales of certain cuts of pork and veal, as well as eggs, from livestock whose confinement does not meet specific minimum space rules, even if the animals were raised on farms outside of the state. Mandated sow (breeding pig) confinement dimensions, for instance, are explicitly set at 24 square feet.  

Supreme Court ruling  

The Supreme Court case featured plaintiffs National Pork Producers (NPPC) and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) contending Prop 12 violates the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause. NPPC and AFBF argued the law is unconstitutional because California, which accounts for 13% of domestic pork demand and obtains most of its pork from outside its borders, was attempting to set livestock production standards in other states.  

NPPC and AFBF further argued the arbitrary animal welfare guidelines contained in the law undermine livestock health and don’t align with industry animal housing practices developed in line with veterinary science. NPPC and AFBF also warned that compliance with the law would force livestock producers to take on additional costs, resulting in more consolidation in the ag industry and raising the price of food for consumers.  

Legislative fix 

The high court’s ruling ultimately set a dangerous precedent for state governments to enact or uphold similar overreaching regulations that make it difficult for businesses to comply. Although a federal judge recently found it to be partially unconstitutional, one such example is Massachusetts Question 3, a 2016 voter-approved measure that requires companies selling pork in that state to meet specific sow housing space requirements.    

Above all, the Supreme Court justices in their split decision on Prop 12 put the onus squarely on Congress to develop a legislative response. At least one bill, the 2023 Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act, has been introduced in Congress as a potential solution. The next farm bill could also serve as a vehicle for a legislative fix.  

Farm Bureau response 

In addition to leading federal legal challenges against Prop 12 and advocating in support of the EATS Act, Farm Bureau has taken other recent meaningful steps to address the economic uncertainty created by the California law:  

  • AFBF farmer delegates in January 2024 advanced a resolution calling for the AFBF Board of Directors to prioritize Prop 12 and similar initiatives and prevent their harmful consequences by developing a legislative solution.  

  • Illinois Farm Bureau, along with state commodity group partners, sent a letter in early 2024 to the Illinois congressional delegation outlining concerns with Prop 12 and calling for a legislative fix in the 2023 farm bill. 

  • The IFB Board of Directors approved a 2024 Action Priority related to Prop 12. It calls for protecting farmers from potential regulatory threats and seeking a “legislative fix to address the adverse impacts of Proposition 12 and stave off additional initiatives that could hurt agricultural production.” 

  • Leaders from IFB and the state commodity groups in July 2023 hosted U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, and U.S. Rep. Jonathan Jackson, D-Chicago, at the home office in Bloomington for an in-person meeting to discuss potential policy solutions around Prop 12.  

  • A group of 16 IFB members in summer 2023 advocated in Capitol Hill meetings with lawmakers from Illinois for a legislative response to Prop 12.   

  • IFB throughout 2023 facilitated visits to IFB member farms with our members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to gain a better understanding of livestock production practices and the negative impacts of Prop 12.