California’s Prop 12 Fully in Effect

March 6, 2024

On Jan. 1, 2024, California’s Proposition 12 (Prop 12) went into full effect, requiring certain farm owners, operators and distributors of covered farm animals such as egg-laying hens, commercial breeding pigs and veal calves (covered entities) to provide more humane living conditions for these animals. The regulations apply to both in-state entities and out-of-state entities that intend to sell in California, and failure to comply with the regulations will render the food products unsaleable in California. Prop 12 does not, however, apply to end-users, such as cottage food operations that receive eggs for use as an ingredient.

Prop 12 requires these covered entities to register with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. Entities must complete the application and submit to on-site inspection in order to be certified. Farm pastures, fields, structures, animal containment facilities, containers, labels, records and saleable products are all subject to inspection. For a period of two years prior to the application for certification, covered entities also must maintain an appropriate audit trail, noting the size of the farm, the inventory of animals and evidence that animals were confined in a compliant manner. If a covered entity undergoes a change in ownership, the change must be reported to the California Department of Food and Agriculture within 30 days.

Prop 12 has faced significant resistance from the egg, veal and pork industry since the ballot initiative passed in 2018, including an argument in the U.S. Supreme Court that Prop 12 violated the Dormant Commerce Clause and interfered with entities’ ability to participate in interstate commerce. However, the Supreme Court held that Prop 12 was not “designed to benefit in-state economic interests by burdening out-of-state competitors,” upholding California regulators’ right to establish their own rules on agriculture within the state and their right to require other producers seeking to sell in the state to comply with the regulations. Consequently, the law was fully implemented on Jan. 1, 2024, and all covered entities are expected to comply.

Animal welfare laws have gained traction outside of California. Several other states — including Massachusetts, Arizona, Colorado and Ohio — have passed laws similar to Prop 12 addressing cruel containment of farm animals.

Please reach out to the authors of this article if you need assistance with applications or interpreting how Prop 12 will affect your business.