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California’s Proposition 12 Takes Full Effect

California’s Proposition 12 farm animal confinement law took full effect at the beginning of the year, a little more than 5 years after voters approved it as a ballot measure in the state.

The law “bars sales in California of pork, veal and eggs from animals whose confinement failed to meet certain minimum space requirements,” according to reporting from Nate Raymond and Andrew Chung of Reuters. “The law mandates pig confinement spaces large enough to enable the animals to turn around, lie down, stand up and extend their limbs.”

From the California Department of Food and Agriculture

While there has been significant pushback between when the law was approved and its full implementation this year (including a Supreme Court case in 2023 in which the court upheld Proposition 12), “major pork producers, restaurants and grocery stores, including Albertsons, Chipotle and Niman Ranch have already made the transition to be compliant with Prop 12,” according to the Humane Society of the United States.

“Companies like Hormel Foods, Clemens Food Group, Perdue, DuBreton farms and Tyson Foods have all publicly stated they can meet the demand for crate-free pork produced in accordance with Prop 12 standards,” the Humane Society said in a press release.

While many major pork producers have already complied with or plan to comply with Proposition 12, the National Pork Producers Council has said repeatedly it is concerned about the impact the law will have on hog farmers and how it will “create significant challenges for how producers operate and increasingly allows others to dictate how to raise pigs without any voice in the standards being imposed upon them.”

The NPPC says that 15% of domestic pork sales are to California and estimates that “the cost that farmers will need invest and pass onto consumers” is $3,500 per sow. “That means a producer owner operating a 4,000 sow farm will need to invest approximately $14 million to be compliant.”

Because of these concerns, and other concerns regarding interstate commerce, U.S. lawmakers continue to criticize and look to pass laws to address their concerns around Proposition 12.

KTVO’s Maddie Lee reports that “U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is renewing a push for federal legislation that would reverse California’s Proposition 12 when Congress reconvenes on January 8.”

Grassley, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and others plan to reintroduce the Ending Agriculture Suppression Act (EATS Act), Lee wrote. The EATS Acts “would curb states’ ability to regulate agricultural products sold within their borders and is in part aimed at California’s Proposition 12, which sets housing standards for animals used for pork, veal, and eggs sold in the state,” according to Reuters reporting from Leah Douglas.

The passage of the EATS Act could face its own resistance, however, as more than 200 Congressional lawmakers opposed the Act last year, saying “the bill could ‘harm America’s small farmers, threaten numerous state laws, and infringe on the fundamental rights of states to establish laws and regulations within their own borders,'” according to Politico’s Garrett Downs.

Ryan Hanrahan is the farm policy news editor and social media director for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked in local news, primarily as an agriculture journalist in the American West. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri (B.S. Science & Agricultural Journalism).

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