NPPC Leader Not Betting the Farm on Prop 12

The president of the National Pork Producers Council said on Tuesday he won’t convert his Missouri hog farm to satisfy the California rules.

The president of the National Pork Producers Council, which fought California’s Proposition 12 animal welfare law all the way to the Supreme Court, said on Tuesday he won’t convert his Missouri hog farm to satisfy the California rules. Scott Hays told reporters that it wasn’t clear if making the required renovations, meant to give breeding sows more room to move about, would pay off.

“I know myself, personally, I chose not to make that change,” Hays said at a news conference. NPPC officials said they sought a smooth implementation of Prop 12 on Jan. 1, but at the same time, they have encouraged Congress to override the California law. “It goes beyond the pork industry. This is a struggle … that many other industries could face,” said Brian Humphreys, NPPC chief executive. The trade group contends that Prop 12 is an unconstitutional state barrier to interstate commerce, although the Supreme Court upheld the law in May.

NPPC leaders said the organization, with members throughout the production chain, was not tracking farmers’ decisions about adapting to Prop 12 housing standards. Instead, they called it an individual business decision.

Farmers would bear the expense of remodeling or building new hog barns to meet Prop 12 rules, said Hays, who farms in northeastern Missouri. “We don’t know yet,” he said, if Californians are ready to pay more for pork and if additional revenue would filter through retailers and pork processors to reach producers. “And for my family, we’re not willing to bet the farm that all that is going to happen.”

Some large pork producers, including Hormel, Smithfield, and Tyson Foods, have said they will comply with Prop 12, reported Reuters a month ago.

Prop 12 requires hog farmers in California to provide 24 square feet of floor space to each breeding sow, and it prohibits the sale of pork produced on farms in other states that do not meet that standard. Farrowing crates can be used in the final days before sows give birth and until their piglets are weaned.

Although California is a relatively small pork producer, it consumes around 15 percent of U.S. pork. Voters approved Prop 12 by a landslide in a statewide referendum in 2018. The NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation, the largest U.S. farm group, fought Prop 12 in court for years.

Since the Supreme Court ruling, the NPPC has given its support to the so-called EATS Act, which would allow virtually anyone — producers, distributors, consumers, and laborers are among those named — to file suit in federal court to invalidate a state or local “standard or precondition on the pre-harvest production of any agricultural products sold or offered for sale in interstate commerce if the production occurs in another state.”

Opponents say the bill is written so broadly it would jeopardize 1,000 health, safety, and welfare laws on the state level, despite being presented as a protection of states’ rights.

Asked if lawmakers would support including language similar to the EATS Act in the new farm bill, Hays replied, “We do need a fix. And we very much appreciate [House Agriculture Committee chair Glenn] Thompson being a champion trying to get this resolved.”