On Dec. 5, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) filed a legal challenge to California's Proposition 12, which imposes animal housing standards that reach outside of California's borders to farms across the U.S. and beyond.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, Proposition 12 prohibits the sale of pork not produced according to California's highly prescriptive production standards, a NPPC release said. The proposition applies to any uncooked pork sold in the state, whether raised there or outside its borders.
"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 the release.
California represents approximately 15% of the U.S. pork market. Sorenson said Proposition 12 will force hog farmers who want to sell pork into the populous state to switch to alternative housing systems, at a significant cost to their business.
“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 said.
In the release, AFBF General Counsel Ellen Steen said this law was presented to California voters as a solution to improve animal welfare and food safety, but it has nothing to do with food safety, and many animals will suffer more injury and illness because of it.
"The best way to protect animal well-being is to allow farmers to make farm-specific and animal-specific decisions on animal care,” Steen said. “Prop 12 will deny them that ability while driving up their costs.”
Proposition 12 will ultimately create greater consolidation in the pork industry, Steen believes. The hardest hit will be family farms, and especially smaller independent farms.
Less than 1% of U.S. pork production meets Prop 12's requirements. To comply with Proposition 12, U.S. hog farmers should start making investment decisions to be ready by the implementation date, the release said.
The filed complaint urges the courts to strike Proposition 12 as invalid under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Key points in the challenge include Proposition 12 regulates wholly out-of-state conduct, imposes an excessive burden on interstate commerce, sows do not benefit from mandating 24 square-feet-per-sow or restricting the use of breeding stalls, and as applied to pork, it offers no human health or safety benefit. See the complaint here.
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