(The Center Square) – Iowa senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, both Republicans, are taking California to task in response to Prop 12, the California Farm Animal Confinement Proposition.
Grassley and Ernst have co-sponsored Exposing Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act, they each announced in news releases Aug. 5.
Prop 12 mandates that beginning in 2022, California businesses cannot sell pork meat in California that comes from breeding pigs or immediate offspring of breeding pigs “confined in a cruel manner,” defined as “with less than 24 square feet of usable floorspace per pig.”
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig thanked the senators for “having the backs of Iowa farmers by ensuring they continue to have unobstructed access to markets” and urged the U.S. Congress to take up the legislation “as soon as possible” in a news release the department issued Aug. 5.
“California politicians and activists have no business trying to write laws that apply to people outside of their borders, let alone Iowa farmers,” Naig said. “Iowa farmers take great pride in caring for their animals and that’s why we’re able to consistently produce high-quality protein that feeds much of the world. Activist groups claim that California’s Proposition 12 is about protecting animal welfare but, in reality, it’s about limiting animal agriculture. Not only will these unnecessary and heavy-handed regulations severely restrict access to affordable food for consumers, especially those who are food insecure, they will also significantly increase costs and red tape for producers and small businesses.”
The EATS Act would prohibit state and local governments from creating laws regarding the production and manufacturing of agricultural products from other states that exceed existing federal, state and local regulations that have jurisdiction over the producers and manufacturers.
Iowa is among 20 states that filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the petition the North American Meat Institute filed challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 12.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Farm and Ag Business Management Specialist Kelvin Leibold told The Center Square in a emailed statement Prop 12 would impact the cost of production for Iowa hog producers, raise pork prices in California and lower pork prices nationally and for U.S. exports in response to supply and demand levers since there is not enough pork currently available “in the [California] model” to meet the demand in California.
“[Iowa hog farmers] will either have to downsize their herds or build new facilities to house the same number of breeding animals as they had before,” he said. “Some producers may decide it is a good time to exit the industry while others think it is a good time to expand; especially if their expansion allows them to grab a piece of the CA market share at higher prices. So they may be able to maintain the same profit margin by capturing higher prices.”
He added the whole supply chain “stands to have higher costs” since processors, warehousers and shippers will have to identify which pigs meet the standards and “keep the meat separate” while retailers conduct additional tracking to cover the regulations.
“I am not sure if the majority of Californians would have voted for Prop 12 if they [knew] that they were voting to increase the cost of the ‘bacon burger’ at the drive up,” he said.