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Agriculture

Judge Discards Iowa Pork Producers' Challenge To California Law

Pig-at-feeder.jpg
Amy Mayer
/
IPR file
Federal judge C.J. Williams ruled in favor of California state officials’ motion to dismiss the case writing there isn’t proof that California intended to harm Iowa pork producers when voters passed Proposition 12.

A federal judge in Iowa has dismissed Iowa pork producers’ argument that a California animal confinement law is unconstitutional. Attorneys for producers are assessing their next steps.

Federal judge C.J. Williams ruled in favor of California state officials’ motion to dismiss the case writing there isn’t proof that California intended to harm Iowa pork producers when voters passed Proposition 12. The law, which was passed in 2018, will bar business owners in California from selling pork from pigs that were confined “in a cruel manner.” Proposition 12 defines “cruel manner” as giving each breeding pig less than 24 square feet of space. The law takes effect Jan. 1.

The Iowa Pork Producers Association and three farms and businesses named in the lawsuit had argued earlier this month in federal court that complying with California’s new law would sharply increase their costs.

“The collateral effects of passing the law may be that Iowa farmers are harmed, but there is nothing that indicates this harm was intentional,” Williams wrote. “Even if plaintiffs satisfied the intentional act prong, the California law was not uniquely or expressly aimed at Iowa and the brunt of the harm was not felt there.”

Williams also dismissed the case ruling that the court did not have jurisdiction over the California officials named as the defendants in the lawsuit.

Eldon McAfee, a lawyer for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, expressed disappointment in the ruling.

“Obviously we wish the ruling had went the other way and allowed the lawsuit to move forward,” McAfee said.

McAfee said it will be tough for Iowa producers to give each breeding pig more than 24 square feet of space to be able to comply with Proposition 12.

“We alleged in the lawsuit it would be very difficult,” McAfee said. “You never want to use the word ‘impossible.' It can be done. But it would be very difficult, extremely difficult on a commercial basis.”

McAfee said producers would have to shift their housing from individual crates to group sow housing to comply and that would cost producers a lot of money.

He added attorneys are looking at next steps and “looking at all of our options.”