On March 10, 2020, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, along with 14 other state attorneys general, filed a legal brief in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California supporting a lawsuit by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) challenging California’s Proposition 12, enacted by that state’s voters in 2018. 

The California law contains two operative provisions with respect to animal confinement. The first provision regulates the manner in which California’s own producers may confine calves raised for veal, breeding pigs and egg-laying hens. A second provision prohibits the sale in California of any veal, pork or eggs produced from animals not raised in accordance with the state’s animal-confinement regulations, regardless of where those animals were raised. In their lawsuit, NPPC and AFBF are asking the federal district court to prevent California’s sales ban from being enforced.

The attorneys general argue in the brief that the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause prohibits California’s attempt to usurp other states’ authority to adopt their own animal-husbandry policies by extending California’s animal-confinement regulations to every livestock producer in the United States.

“These efforts portend exactly the sorts of economic friction and trade wars the Commerce Clause was designed to prevent,” the attorneys general write in the brief. “It is not hard to imagine, for example, a State obstructing access to its markets for goods produced by labor paid less than $15 per hour... Nor is it difficult to see how other States might retaliate to such extraterritorial minimum-wage laws with their own bans—such as a ban on goods produced by labor lacking right-to-work protections. The Commerce Clause was adopted to head off precisely this sort of escalating interstate conflict.”

A copy of the brief is available here.