AgriTalk: Behind the Smoke and Mirrors of Proposition 12

Apr 15, 2024

When Trish Cook, past president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, joined a group of 20 Iowa pig farmers on a trip to California in March to witness the effect of Proposition 12, she wasn’t surprised by the amount of chaos this regulation has created. 

“We want to a grocery store and I picked up a 1 lb.-package of Hormel Black Label bacon. At that grocery store in California, it was $10.98. I went to my hometown in Independence, Iowa, and it was $4.98 on that exact same package of bacon,” Cook told AgriTalk’s Chip Flory on Friday. 

In a recent report, USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) discovered prices for pork products affected by Prop 12, including loins, ribs and bellies, have seen an average 20% price increase in California since before July 1, 2023 – when the initiative was partially implemented – with loin prices averaging 41% higher than before Prop 12 implementation. Pork not covered by the initiative has not seen a significant increase, the report noted. 

“It's really not fair to the consumer there to ask them to pay that much more for something,” Cook says. “During our visit to the store that day, the butcher said people often ask why pork is more expensive and they don't even remember Prop 12 or what it's even about.”

That’s why pork producers are looking to the farm bill to help fix some of the damage created by California’s Prop 12, requiring pork sold in the state to be from hogs born to sows raised in housing that meets specific space standards.

“They were duped into voting for it,” Flory responded during AgriTalk. “Now you see the push by the animal rights activists out there saying, ‘Listen, we need to shore up our efforts against proposed legislation like the EATS Act to keep the rules and regs on farrowing in place.’ It's just proof that it's got nothing to do with the welfare of the animal. It's got everything to do with ending animal agriculture.”

Iowa Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley have been supportive of the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act, Cook added. She's been in Washington, DC representing Iowa pig farmers during the spring Legislative Action Conference.

“On the House side, I think there's a lot of positive vibes going on. Chairman GT Thompson is committed to getting it in the House version of the Farm Bill,” Cook said. “There's some crazy talk about folks saying ‘let's just get some grant money available so people can modify their farms to Prop 12.’ To just put verbiage in the farm bill is essentially no cost.”

Animal activist groups spent about $100 million on ballot initiative in California to get it through, Cook said. 

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