Senate Bill Would Invalidate Prop 12 Through Lawsuits

In opposition to California’s Proposition 12, seven farm-state senators announced legislation to prohibit states from regulating agricultural production in other states.

Virtually anyone — producer, distributor, trade group, transporter, consumer, and laborer were named in the bill — would be empowered to challenge such regulatory infringement in court and seek financial compensation.

“This is a matter of states’ rights,” said Sen. Roger Marshall, Kansas Republican and lead sponsor of the bill. “If California wants to regulate agriculture in its own state, that’s fine, but California’s rules should not apply to Kansas, whose legislature never approved of these regulations.”

Farm groups and meatpackers began looking for a congressional rescue within days of the Supreme Court decision on May 11 that Proposition 12 was constitutional. Prop 12 requires California farmers to give egg-laying hens, veal calves, and breeding sows more floor space, and it bars the sale of pork, veal, and eggs produced on farms outside the state that do not meet California’s standards.

The pork industry says it will be unduly expensive to modify barns and processing systems to satisfy the demand of one state, albeit it’s the country’s most populous.

Beyond banning state/ local governments from imposing “a standard or condition on the preharvest production of any agricultural products sold or offered for sale in interstate commerce if … the production occurs in another state,” the bill, filed by the seven Republicans, would authorize lawsuits by individuals and government units “to invalidate that regulation and seek damages for economic loss resulting from that regulation.”

California has set a six-month transition period, until Jan. 1, for compliance with the rule on meat sales. At the Supreme Court, it argued that because Prop 12 applies only to meat sold in the state, it was not an impediment to interstate trade.