Massachusetts State Law Delay Keeps Breakfast on the Table

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New Englanders can breathe a sigh of relief after a United States federal court judge for the District of Massachusetts today signed a court order approving an agreement to delay enforcement of a state law that would have banned the sale of pork that comes from animals not housed according to the state’s prescriptive housing standards. A coalition led by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), with the National Restaurant Association, and several New England restaurant and hospitality associations filed suit seeking to stop the law’s impeding implementation. The suit also asks the court to find the law unconstitutional.

“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 Terry Wolters, NPPC president and owner of Stoney Creek Farms in Pipestone, Minnesota. “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.”

The state law, known as Question 3 (Q3), was a 2016 Massachusetts ballot initiative set to go into effect on Aug. 15, 2022. Q3 is similar to California’s Proposition 12, which is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, and would ban any uncooked whole pork meat sold in the state that does not meet specific sow housing requirements, regardless of where it was produced. Going further than Prop 12, the Massachusetts law would not allow the transshipment of whole pork through the state jeopardizing an estimated $2 billion worth of pork that moves into neighboring New England states.

Earlier this week, the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy and the coalition came to a commonsense agreement 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 in the lawsuit brought by NPPC and American Farm Bureau Federation to Proposition 12. This 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.

“Working cooperatively with the court and AG Healy’s office to ensure already-constrained supply chains continue to work despite this unconstitutional law is a win for American families and local economies in New England and around the country,” Wolters said. “Thanks to this agreement, and court order, 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.”

Pig farmers and swine veterinarians are in the best position to make decisions about how to care for their animals. Activist-led ballot initiatives like those in California and Massachusetts risk reversing decades of progress on both animal health and on-farm sustainability, which could undermine the global competitiveness of the U.S. pork industry.