The U-S Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday on whether one state can regulate hog production in another.
At issue is a California animal cruelty law that sets housing requirement for pigs if the pork is sold in California, regardless of where the animal was raise.
The law was challenged by the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation who say it puts illegal burdens on producers outside California.
Specifically, the law says pork sold in the state needs to come from pigs whose mothers were raised with at least 24 square feet of space, including the ability to lie down and turn around.
Producers say sows get moody and often aggressive when ready to be bred, so they’re placed in individual pens or breeding stalls for up to a week for their protection and to protect against disease. They can stand up and lie down, but not turn around.
The lawsuit argues the California law violates the Commerce Clause of the U-S Constitution by imposing very prescriptive standards on farmers who have no contact with California since they sell their hogs to processing companies.
California makes up 13% of the U-S pork market, a $26-billion dollar a year industry, but has few hog operations of its own.
The outcome of the case could help define the limits of a state’s ability to pass laws that have impacts outside its own borders.