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Pork Seeks Prop 12 National Solution
By Todd Neeley
Tuesday, April 9, 2024 9:31AM CDT

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- Pork industry officials want Congress to pass federal legislation to prevent what they fear eventually will become a patchwork of state laws governing how farmers can raise hogs, members of the National Pork Producers Council (NPCC) said in a press call Monday as part of an industry fly-in to Washington, D.C.

Members of the House of Representatives remain divided on the future of the "Exposing Agriculture Trade Suppression Act," or EATS Act. The legislation would prohibit states like California from regulating agriculture nationally. That bill has raised the ire of animal welfare activists.

Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, introduced the EATS Act last June, a month after the 5-4 Supreme Court decision that upheld California's Proposition 12. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., led the introduction of an identical bill in the Senate.

Prop 12 prohibits sales of pork in California from swine not provided at least 24 square feet of floor space during birthing and weaning. The law sets standards for pork production outside of California for any meatpacker wanting to sell pork within the state.

NPPC members said Monday they are holding out for a national solution to be part of an upcoming farm bill. Politico reported on Monday, however, that a new farm bill remains unlikely as members of Congress return to work this week.

Lori Stevermer, a Minnesota producer and NPPC, said allowing states to set their unique standards would complicate how farmers raise hogs.

"So, we're looking to Congress to fix it," she said.

"As we talk about the situation, the comments that I hear from producers are 'We don't want a patchwork of regulations across the country.' Some of the things that we were concerned about with Prop 12 and how it affects consumers, we're seeing come to fruition."

USDA's Office of Economics recently released a study showing pork prices in California increased by 20% with Prop 12 in effect, https://www.dtnpf.com/….

"We're also seeing fresh pork consumption declining 8% to 10%," Stevermer said.

"So, higher prices, lower availability is not the right situation in California, especially for those individuals that already have concerns about food availability and food affordability. Even a producer that has made the change to become Prop 12-compliant, they're worried about what the next state could do. Maybe that's 28, 29, 30 square feet. So, we need certainty, and whatever language gets us to there is very important."

VILSACK COMMENTS

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told House Agriculture Committee members last month that agricultural producers are going to face "chaos in the marketplace" if Congress doesn't address the Prop 12 case. He said "chaos" would come from each state defining for itself what farming techniques or practices are appropriate.

NPPC's CEO Brian Humphrey said his group continues to press for a Prop 12 solution in the farm bill.

"There's a lot of options that this could take, and that's why we continue to meet with both the House and the Senate, with Republicans and Democrats, because we're trying to navigate and find a bipartisan solution," he said.

"Our focus here is the farm bill, though, and we continue to have conversations on the hill. Our producers are going to be up there this week meeting with members and encouraging them to continue to move forward and pressuring them to move with a farm bill here in 2024 -- we need that."

Rob Brenneman, NPPC vice president and a hog producer from Washington County, Iowa, said a national solution is important because costs are high to adapt farms to fit state laws, including the labor cost to run those operations.

"We have a large Prop 12 farm that definitely requires a little more labor, and it also requires a little more technology to help us to be more productive," he said.

"Every time we have to make a change on the farm that accommodates a certain program, it's expensive, and that expense, it passes right on through to the consumer."

Scott Hays, NPPC immediate past president and a hog farmer from Missouri, said market certainty is a two-way street.

"I agree with certainty for producers, but also certainty for consumers," he said. "So, consumers are going to have a choice at the meat counter and producers have to have a choice on the farm, and it's really a package deal and you know we're trying to do what's best for consumers -- get them a high-quality protein that's affordable -- and this patchwork that's coming from this really hits the consumers."

Read more on DTN:

"GOP Conservatives Oppose EATS Act Over Chinese Influence in US Pork Industry," https://www.dtnpf.com/….

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com.

Follow him on the social platform X @DTNeeley.


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