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Hog Outlook: California court orders modified implementation schedule but does not delay all of Prop 12’s regulations.

Kevin Schulz

July 10, 2023

3 Min Read
Piglets suckling at sow
BEST INTENTIONS: California voters passed Prop 12 in the name of animal welfare, but it remains to be seen if the arbitrary space requirements will truly result in animal safety.Courtesy of National Pork Board

Hog producers got a little reprieve in mid-June when modifications to the California Proposition 12 implementation were announced.

After the May U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Prop 12 was allowed to go into effect July 1; however, a lot of details of implementation were yet to be determined. For example, would noncompliant pork products already in the supply chain be allowed to be sold to California consumers?

According to the National Pork Producers Council’s Capital Update, the Superior Court for the County of Sacramento on June 16 signed an order modifying certain aspects of the implementation schedule for Prop 12.

The order provides an extension of time for the continued sale of noncompliant whole pork meat that was already in the supply chain when Proposition 12 took effect July 1. The order does not delay the underlying requirements of Proposition 12.

According to the Capital Update, under the terms of the order, noncompliant whole pork meat can continue to be sold in California provided that:

  • as of July 1, is in the possession of an “end-user” or a “pork distributor” or on the premises of an establishment at which mandatory inspection is provided under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, and that holds an establishment number granted by the Food Safety Inspection Service of the USDA

  • is self-certified by the end-user, pork distributor or other federally inspected entity to have been in their possession or was in the possession of another end-user, pork distributor or other federally inspected entity as of July 1

  • is ultimately sold, transferred, exported or donated on or before Dec. 31.

To reiterate, this change does not delay all of Prop 12’s wrath, but is merely an adjustment related to the sale of noncompliant whole pork meat already in the supply chain. Anything harvested after July 1, to be sold in California, needs to be Prop 12-compliant.

NPPC continues to work with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to provide guidance for producers, ensuring as smooth a transition as possible to Prop 12 compliance. According to the NPPC (per a University of Minnesota study) the estimated costs to convert sow barns to group pens would be anywhere from $1.9 billion to more than $3.2 billion.

Some producers have already made compliance conversions after California voters first approved Prop 12 in the fall of 2018.

Maintaining access to the California market is a key issue for the NPPC and American producers, as 15% of U.S. pork sales are to the Golden State.

Help on the way?

There may be a glimmer of hope for American pig farmers, as legislation has been introduced in Congress to prevent states from dictating practices of other states, such as Prop 12 decreeing how pigs in every state need to be raised if the end product is to be sold to California consumers.

Supporters of this legislation — Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression Act, or EATS — say this act would preserve the right of state and local governments to shield their realm from regulations set by another, preserving individual states’ rights.

Of course, there are opponents to EATS. Some say the legislation, if approved, would set back animal welfare efforts, while others claim EATS would put family farms out of business and create a larger opening for agricultural conglomerates to take over at the same time.

Two points to be argued are that, first, these Prop 12-imposed added space requirements do not guarantee safety for the animals; and secondly, with the price tag estimated for necessary revisions will more than likely drive out smaller swine producers, leaving only the larger operations that may be better prepared to absorb improvement costs.

Obviously, time will tell if EATS gets any traction to be passed on its own or to be included in the next farm bill.

Learn more

The CDFA has hosted a number of webinars for various stakeholder groups. Visit cdfa.ca.gov/ahfss/animalcare to check out these webinars.

The NPPC also has all you want to know about Prop 12 by visiting nppc.org/prop12.

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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