Animal associations

Iowa pork producers say they face hurdles with California’s new animal containment law

A California law prohibiting companies from selling eggs and pork from animals confined to small spaces will come into effect Jan. 1, but some pork producers and agribusiness groups say they need more time to comply and a clear understanding of how.

Proposition 12, the ballot initiative adopted by California voters in 2018, bans state businesses from selling eggs, veal, and pork from “cruel” confined animals. Parts of the animal containment law have been in effect since 2020.

By January 1, breeding pigs must each have at least 24 square feet of space for their meat to be sold in California.

In an email to the IPR, the California Department of Food and Agriculture said growers and sellers must be in compliance by then, but shell eggs, liquid eggs and the pigs that are “already in stock or in commerce” on December 31 will still be legal in the state.

“Pork conforming in inventory or in commerce need not be from breeding pigs or immediate offspring of breeding pigs, housed with the requirement of twenty-four square feet per pig, if the meat pork comes from a pig born on or before December 31, 2021, ”the agency wrote in an email.

The Humane Society of the United States calls Proposition 12 “the strictest law in the world for farm animals.”

But agricultural industry groups fear that the law will increase the operating costs of producers and subject them to various inspection and certification requirements, according to a brief filed by the Iowa Pork Producers Association, the Minnesota Pork Producers Association, and other state farm groups.

The industry is in a real stalemate, if you will, on this proposal. The investment that will have to be made by the producers – which must ultimately receive a return on investment.

Lyon County pork producer Dwight Mogler

Iowa raises more hogs than any other state, but many hog farms do not meet the space requirements of Proposal 12. Lyon County hog farmer Dwight Mogler said he should cut back his herd size from a farm of 4,400 sows to a farm of 3,500 sows so that his pigs had more space and that he would have to rearrange his buildings to comply with the law.

“The industry is at a real stalemate, if you will, on this proposition,” Mogler said. “The investment that is going to have to be made by the producers – which ultimately has to be amortized. “

Under Proposal 12, pigs can no longer be kept in individual breeding stalls, called gestation cages. Mogler said he housed his sows in individual breeding stalls with almost 15 square feet of space when the sows are ovulating and receptive to mating. Sows tend to be “aggressive” towards their pen mates during this time, Mogler said, so these stalls help protect them from injury.

“Their care and standards of well-being are of the utmost importance to us,” Mogler said. “These arbitrary standards really do nothing to improve the welfare of the animal, and in some situations we would in fact compromise the welfare of the animal.”

Eldon McAfee, an attorney for Brick Gentry PC in West Des Moines who represents the Iowa Pork Producers Association, said the producers’ underlying concern is that Proposition 12 will not promote better animal welfare.

“Producers strongly believe in the lawsuits that have been filed and expert testimony at odds with the fundamental basis of Proposition 12 that these requirements promote animal welfare,” McAfee said. “There is a body of science that says these rules are not going to promote better animal welfare.”

California accounts for 15 percent of the U.S. pork market, according to the National Council of Pork Producers. Dallas Hockman, vice president of industrial relations for the NPPC, said California law was straining the supply chain that was already weighed down by the coronavirus pandemic. Materials producers need if they choose to make changes to their operations, such as lumber, steel and concrete, are in high demand and in short supply.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture did not release a final rule on Proposition 12 after comments on the proposed regulatory changes were expected in mid-December. Hockman said this makes it harder for any farm to meet the standard.

“Here we are at the eleventh hour – because it’s hard for producers to make that investment, because it’s a big investment – without a clear understanding of what they’re going to have to do to comply,” Hockman said.

The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation asked the U.S. Supreme Court in September to reconsider their challenge to the law. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed the groups’ challenge in July. Farmer groups argue that Proposition 12 violates the Commercial clause, which prevents states from regulating the commerce of other states.

In a call with reporters earlier this week, U.S. Senator from Iowa Chuck Grassley said the Supreme Court would decide in the coming weeks whether or not to hear the case. Grassley said California shouldn’t tell Iowa farmers how to raise their cattle.

“Other states don’t tell California how to grow grapes or almonds and, for example, how much water they can use to produce their wine and almond butter,” Grassley said.

California food industry groups including the California Grocers Association and the California Restaurant Association filed a lawsuit in November asking the state to delay implementation of the law by more than two years after the rules are final. published.

Economists at the University of California, Davis, find the price of uncooked cuts of pork in California will likely increase by about 7.7 percent due to the new law.