Pork sector awaits Proposition 12 verdict

Pork sector awaits Proposition 12 verdict
May 03, 2021

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California’s Proposition 12 could put undue onus on pig farmers across the U.S. with no scientific basis, says the NPPC

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer
Farms.com

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) recently presented arguments asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit “to strike down California’s Proposition 12 as unconstitutional under the dormant commerce clause,” Rachel Gantz, spokesperson for the NPPC, told Farms.com.

California voters approved Proposition 12 in November 2018 and it’s slated to come into effect Jan. 1 2022. The proposition sets standards for pig, chicken and calf housing that farmers must meet to have their pork, eggs, and veal sold in the state of California.

Specifically, under Proposition 12 all sows must be given 24 square feet of space. According to the NPPC, the typical sow farm allows for 16 to 18 square feet of space per sow.

Less than 4 per cent of current U.S. sow housing would meet the standard set out by Proposition 12, according to research published in March 2021 by Christine McCracken, senior analyst of animal protein for Rabobank.

“Essentially, a state that lacks any meaningful hog production is seeking to regulate how farmers across the country operate, imposing onerous regulations, inspection and permitting requirements, and highly prescriptive measures on pork producers,” Gantz explained.

Proposition 12 would apply to any uncooked pork sold in the state of California, regardless of where the pigs were raised, including meat that has been cured, but not cooked.

“California, with nearly 40 million residents, represents approximately 15 per cent of the U.S. pork market,” said the NPPC.

“The state has a majority Latino and Asian population, both of which have long-standing cultural preferences for pork,” Gantz added. “Proposition 12 will dramatically reduce the supply of pork for Californians, driving up prices for consumers and disproportionately affecting low-income households.”

In addition, to comply with Proposition 12, farmers would need to renovate sow housing facilities, at great cost.

“The ones least able to bear that cost will be small family farms. Loss of this market will put many hog farmers out of business, ultimately leading to further industry consolidation,” said Gantz.

In December 2019 the NPPC and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) filed a joint lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, explained Gantz.

“Proposition 12 revolves around a set of arbitrary standards that lack any scientific, technical or agricultural basis, and will only serve to inflict further harm on U.S. hog farmers,” said Jen Sorenson, NPPC vice president in a Dec. 6 2019 statement.  

“U.S. pork producers are already fighting to expand market opportunities overseas. We shouldn’t have to fight to preserve our domestic market too,” she added.

However, in “In April 2020, a federal judge dismissed the case and we appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit,” Gantz explained. “NPPC and AFBF jointly filed their lawsuit before the federal court in September 2020. We expect a court decision by mid-summer.”

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