A coalition of California restaurants and retailers is suing the state to block a law scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 that they argue could drive up the cost of bacon and create supply chain backlogs for the pork industry.
The lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court centers on Proposition 12, a 2018 ballot measure that prohibits the production or importation of pork raised from pigs kept in confined spaces. It requires in part that breeding sows be kept in a space no smaller than 24 square feet.
The plaintiffs include the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the California Grocers Association, the California Restaurant Association, the California Retailers Association and Monrovia-based pork processor Kruse & Son.
In a statement provided to the Bee, Kruse & Son said that the company is “left with no choice but to seek relief in the courts as a result of California’s delay in posting final regulations. Without final regulations and appropriate time for the supply chain to comply, the State has left pork producers and consumers vulnerable to acute shortages. Hard-working Californians should not be punished for the State’s inaction.”
The lawsuit argues that while the liability portion of the Prop. 12 provision is set to go into effect in the new year, the state has yet to implement clarifying regulations that were supposed to be final in September 2019.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture is currently soliciting comments for the latest draft regulations.
“This disconnect between Proposition 12 as approved by the voters and the state’s implementation of the law in the marketplace leaves market participants shouldering all of the uncertainty and legal risks. Without an order from this court, the state’s inability to put in place regulations implementing Proposition 12 in a timely manner will lead to substantial disruptions in the State’s pork supply chain in 2022 and deprive market participants of the statutorily-mandated, good faith defense against prosecution and liability that necessarily requires a functioning certification process,” the lawsuit reads, in part.
The lawsuit notes that though Californians consume approximately 13% of the nation’s pork, most of that pork comes from out of state producers through a complex supply chain that can include 10 or more separate steps by multiple businesses.
“As a practical matter, a party selling pork to a California end user can only represent that such pork is compliant with Proposition 12 if it has the ability to trace that product through this complex supply chain back to the farms on which the pigs were raised, and then back again through every business involved in processing, packaging, transport, storage and distribution of that particular pork product,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit seeks a court-mandated delay of the implementation of Prop. 12’s pork provision until 28 months after the state adopts its final regulations.
“Because the supply chain will not have adequate time to comply with the final regulations of Prop. 12, without court intervention California small businesses and consumers will be on the hook for potential significant price increases and shortages on pork products. This will disproportionately impact the Latino community that relies on pork as an affordable protein in everyday meals. We ask the court to give the food supply chain the full two years provided in the original measure to come into compliance,” the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said in a statement supporting the lawsuit.
Neither the California Attorney General’s Office nor the Department of Food and Agriculture responded to a Bee request for comment by deadline.