Groups Push for Massachusetts to Delay Animal Confinement Law
By: Sydney Sheffield
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) are advising Massachusetts to defer implementation of the Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals (the Act). With just five months until enforcement, NPPC and NAMI state that the Attorney General for the state is 19 months late in providing rules and regulations for the Act to farmers and producers.
“Before addressing the problems attendant with the proposed rules, the ‘elephant in the room’ needs addressing. The Act provides that ‘The Attorney General shall promulgate rules and regulations for the implementation of this Act on or before January 1, 2020.’ The Attorney General is 19 months late and counting in meeting that deadline,” said Mark Dopp, CEO of NAMI. “Simple equity demands that the agency delay enforcement of the Act so veal calf producers, hog farmers, packer/processors and the rest of the supply chain have time to understand and comply with yet to be published final regulations.”
The Act originates from Question 3. Question 3, originally known as the Massachusetts Minimum Size Requirements for Farm Animal Containment, was on the November 2016 ballot and was approved by 77.64% of voters. Thirteen states filed a lawsuit, claiming that question 3 is unlawful because it violates the Commerce Clause, dictating how other states can choose to regulate business operations and manufacturing processes within their borders. In 2019, this case was denied by the Supreme Court.
A delay in enforcement would allow farmers and producers to understand the rule and make any required changes to their operations. In the letter sent to the Attorney General’s office, NPPC states, “Regulatory compliance will require the pork industry to divert resources from maintaining a critical food supply and reallocate personnel to prepare for the compliance deadline. Businesses will need to rework operations and supply chains to comply with the forthcoming regulatory requirements. Farmers will need to expend substantial capital costs to build or retrofit housing, which is a decades-long investment. To undertake those significant costs now, before the issuance of final rules and guidance, would be impractical if not impossible.”
The Act is comparable to Proposition 12 in California. So much so, that NPPC included in the letter to the Attorney general that the state of Massachusetts did not perform an economic analysis of the Act. The state of California found that a similar rule would cause consumers to pay more and identified no benefit to California residents. NPPC and NAMI fear the same could be true for Massachusetts.
“The proposal would require a packer that harvests hogs, processes those hogs and produces bacon and pork tenderloins, and sells those products to customers in Massachusetts to create and keep for three years a “certification” for every single transaction,” Dopp said. “Large packer processors could have thousands of transactions a year in Massachusetts. Plus, they undoubtedly sell covered pork or veal products to third parties who, in turn, sell the covered products in Massachusetts but the packer often will not know when it sells the product whether that product will be sold in Massachusetts. Indeed, the distributor may not know when it purchases from the packer to whom the product will be sold.”