Farmers and Food Processors File Lawsuit Against New Massachusetts Livestock Regulations

By Jaclyn Krymowski for Protect The Harvest

Hog farmers and pork processors are collaborating to combat Massachusetts Question 3 (Q3) in U.S. District Court. Q3 was a 2016 ballot initiative implementing the “Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act” and predates California’s Proposition 12 (Prop 12) by two years. It has met stiff resistance from the pork industry.

Like Prop 12, the Massachusetts ballot measure dictates the space for housing egg-laying hens, veal calves, and gestating sows. Meat and eggs from animals raised in non-compliant housing became illegal to sell in Massachusetts when Q3 went into effect. Another similarity to California is the fact that only a small percentage of the pork, eggs, and veal consumed in Massachusetts is produced in the state.

Concerns for food transportation and access

Q3 is complex, as pork raised in non-compliant facilities is allowed to enter the state but cannot be legally sold in Massachusetts. If a truck from another state passes through Massachusetts, it does not violate Q3. However, warehousing and distributing pork products from Massachusetts to other states in the region is problematic under Q3.

National Pork Producers Council’s (NPPC) Chief Legal Strategist Michael Formica explains in a Pork Business article:

“For example, if you had a truck filled with pork that was shipped from North Carolina on Interstate 95, and it never stopped in Massachusetts and went to Maine, that would be okay…”

NPPC also notes that Q3 endangers $2 billion in pork business, according to their estimates, moving through Massachusetts to other New England states.

After Q3 was approved by voters in 2016, then Governor Charlie Baker signed compromise legislation pushing back the effective date to August 15, 2022. Subsequently, on August 11, 2022, the court sanctioned an arrangement to postpone the enforcement for a minimum of 30 days following a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding California Prop 12.

Farmers and food processors take legal action

In August 2023, pork processors and hog farmers filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court requesting a preliminary injunction in a motion that was filed earlier in August. The result was a stay on implementing the Act until August 23, 2023.

Parties filing included Triumph Foods, the Allied Producers’ Cooperative, and New Fashion Pork, among others.

Because this caused confusion and complications, actual implementation was temporarily postponed without resolution. The future of Massachusetts pork is uncertain.

Massachusetts farmers made it clear their current housing infrastructure does not, and could not, comply with Q3 requirements, and farms capable of complying do not have adequate hog production volume to meet in-state pork demand.

Triumph Foods President and CEO Matthew England declared in Progressive Farmer:

“Due to Triumph’s inability to control sales of pork that it processes and variables such as which Massachusetts customers can accept frozen pork versus fresh whole pork meat, it is unknown how much of the fresh or frozen whole pork meat will ultimately be available to Massachusetts customers after today, Aug. 23, 2023.”

Animal Extremist Retaliation

Animal extremist groups, the same ones who were involved with drafting Q3, sprung into action and filed a motion against a preliminary injunction. The list of usual suspects includes the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) along with their political arm, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Farm Sanctuary, Compassion in World Farming USA, and a rogue’s gallery of others.

The motion requested that the court deny the preliminary injunction. The animal rights zealots cited that “‘nearly identical requests for preliminary injunctions’ were denied in two challenges to California’s Prop 12, a law ‘substantially’ the same as Question 3,” according to Progressive Farmer.

They further argued that the plaintiff’s claims were insufficient as “they proceed from the same faulty premise – that the U.S. Constitution precludes state laws with upstream practical effects on out-of-state market participants whose products are sold in the regulating state.”

Protect The Harvest supports “A Free and Fed America™” and is closely monitoring this situation. Similar to Prop 12 in California, Q3 seriously threatens food access, affordability, availability, and security in Massachusetts and the region, based on misleading information and rhetoric instead of facts, science, and truth.

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