The state of California simply refuses to leave the rest of us alone.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard more than two hours of oral arguments (more than in the case overturning Roe v. Wade) concerning pigs and how much space should be allotted for a sow to give birth and wean her piglets.
In 2018, California voters approved a proposition that banned the sale of any pork not produced at a farm that provided at least 24 square feet of space per sow. While there is always an argument to be made against animal cruelty, the problem here is a matter of practicality. Only four percent of pig farms currently meet California’s new standard.
Boutique pork -as it were – is available at stores like Whole Foods for around $8 a pound. If applied nationwide, California’s law would raise the price of pork by an estimated 9.2 percent; current record inflation and already-high food prices be damned.
Believe it or not, the Biden regime is reportedly siding with the pork farmers, not California.
Even stranger, left-wing activist Justice Elena Kagan questioned the idea during oral arguments, expressing her concern over the notion of one state inflicting its own rules of commerce on other states.
“Do we want to live in a world where we’re constantly at each other’s throats and, you know, Texas is at war with California and California at war with Texas?” she asked.
She suggested that a state could decide to ban anything not produced by union labor for example, which would create massive disparities between states in terms of the availability of products.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh reportedly asked, “So what about a law that says you can’t sell fruit in our state if it’s produced, handled by people who are not in the country legally?”
Too soon, California?
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned that California will “use its considerable market power to impose its political will on the people of other states.” That sort of hammer and sickle policymaking would also extend to “environmental, social and governance” regulations.
There are test cases for situations in which a state makes laws that affect commerce if there is a concern for the health and safety of its residents. Keeping marijuana outlawed in some states is an example of such a case. In the 1970 case, Pike v. Bruce Church, the Court ruled that interstate commerce could not be detrimental to human health, and that case was cited during the oral arguments.
But here in the case of pig farming, the state of California admitted it has no data showing that the 24-square-foot rule has any benefit for humans. It simply makes a pig’s life more comfortable.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson offered an alternate solution. She suggested that importers simply label pork that doesn’t meet the state standard and consumers can decide for themselves whether to buy it or pay a premium for something else; similar to eggs labeled as cage-free, which are necessarily more expensive.
All but Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor pointed to the dormant commerce clause in Article I of the U.S. Constitution. It places limitations on how an individual state can affect commerce outside its borders.
“California wants to change farming methods everywhere,” the pork farmers’ lawyer told the court. Considering the slippery slope inherent in such policies, thankfully the Supreme Court for now appears to agree.
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