Massachusetts pork law on hold until Supreme Court decides California case

Food Safety News – A Massachusetts law that would mangle the pork trade in New England is on hold until the Supreme Court decides the California Proposition 12 case.

Like California, Massachusetts wants to impose its housing standards for pork on other states. California’s Prop 12 requires pork products imported from other states to meet its ban on gestation crates for roomier spaces.

Massachusetts steps this along even further by banning the trans-shipment of whole pork through the Bay State. That would potentially cut off the regular shipment of $2 billion worth of pork to other New England states. There’s not a [good] ground route to New Hampshire or Maine without going through Massachusetts.

All of these little details were contained in Massachusetts Question 3, which was on the ballot in 2016. The ballot initiative was supposed to take effect on Aug. 22, 2022.
But on Aug. 11, Federal Judge Mark Wolf agreed to delay the enforcement of Q3 until the Supreme Court decides the Prop 12 case.

Veal and egg provisions in Q3 were allowed to take effect.

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A case brought in federal court in Massachusetts will also be idled while the parties wait on the Supreme Court’s Prop 12 ruling.

It was brought by the National Pork Producers Council, National Restaurant Association, and several others from New England’s hospitality industry. They say Q3 is flatly unconstitutional.

While Prop 12 and Q3 are similar, the Massachusetts law banishing any uncooked pork from the state’s borders if it is not up to the housing standards is harsher.

The problem with trans-shipments of pork in New England was not apparent until the state released rules on July 11.

“This is a significant outcome as NPPC continues to push to preserve the rights of America’s pig farmers to raise hogs in the way that is best for their animals and maintains a reliable supply of pork for consumers,” said the NPPC’s Terry Wolters, president and owner of Stoney Creek Farms in Pipestone, MN.

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“The impact of Question 3 would have been particularly harmful to those in surrounding New England states who did not have a vote in the 2016 Massachusetts referendum, nor any notice of the dramatic steps that activists had taken trying to force these harmful initiatives on voters in other states.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy and the Plaintiffs agreed that the Q3 rule prohibiting sales of non-compliant pork should be put on hold at least until 30 days after the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling on Prop. 12.

The agreement is limited to only the pork sales provision of Q3, and producers located in Massachusetts are still required to comply with the in-state housing standards.

The agreement and court order mean “New Englanders can still enjoy their favorite pork products — from bacon to ribs and BBQ — this Labor Day weekend and throughout the rest of the year.”

The pork producers say that “nearly all pork produced in the United States fails to meet Massachusetts Q3 standards.

“This ruling ensures that until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on this issue, no major changes will take place in the Massachusetts pork supply,” explains Stephen Clark, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. “We have heard from countless restaurant owners and suppliers across Massachusetts concerned about the availably and cost of pork in the coming months. Of particular concern, is restaurant owners in the Latino and Asian restaurant community, pertaining to the availability of or more importantly, lack of compliant pork.”

“This stay is the outcome that Rhode Island restaurant operators may not have even realized they needed,” explains Dale J. Venturini, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association. “The supply chain in our state is so challenging right now that this far-reaching regulation in Massachusetts would have been an uncontrollable and unexpected blow locally. For now, the status quo remains in place and diners in Rhode Island can be sure they’ll still be able to get bacon for breakfast or on top of their Friday night burger.”

Angelo Amador, executive director of the Restaurant Law Center, says by getting this stay of enforcement, the industry has ensured that until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on this issue, restaurants in Massachusetts and surrounding states will not have to make significant changes to their menus or disappoint their diners.

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