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California Department Of Food And Agriculture Belatedly Releases Proposition #12 Rules


Proposition #12 was passed by ballot initiative in November 2018.  The law created by voter adoption prohibited confinement of farm animals, including egg-laying hens, veal calves and breeding sows “in a cruel manner” and prohibits the sale of products in California from farm animals so confined.  The final regulations were released in early September 2022, nine months after the proposed date of implementation of January 1, 2022.  A previous court decision extended a grace period of six months to producers after the rules with respect to Proposition #12 were issued.


The requirements that all producers selling livestock products in California comply with the CDFA rules was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that is now the subject of a scheduled hearing by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)


The regulations are now due to take effect on January 1st 2023. In the interim, the National Pork Producers Council and other agricultural associations, supported by numerous states Attorneys General, have petitioned SCOTUS to rule on the constitutionality of Proposition #12 that may conflict with the Dormant Commerce Clause by interfering in interstate commerce.  The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation will present oral arguments before SCOTUS on October 11th, although a ruling is not expected until the spring of 2023.


At issue is the effective banning of gestation crates for sows since this system of housing conflicts with the space requirement of 24 square foot of usable floor space with unrestricted movement that can only be provided applying group housing.


The CDFA requirements for egg-laying hens state, “The enclosure shall allow the egg-laying hen to lie down, stand up, fully extend limbs and turn around freely.”  In addition, “The enclosure shall be an indoor or outdoor controlled environment within which hens are free to roam unrestricted.”  This provision presumes either barn housing or aviaries and effectively precludes enriched colony modules.


At the present time 34 percent of the national flock has transitioned to housing systems for egg-producing flocks that are compliant with Proposition #12, more than adequate to supply California. The pork industry has attained about 25 percent conversion to group housing of sows and accordingly could provide pork that satisfies California regulations. The U.S. egg industry will not be unduly affected by the outcome of the appeal to SCOTUS irrespective of the ruling. What is more important will be the policies of the major chains, food service providers and ultimately consumers who will have to pay for enhanced welfare.