Prop 12 Enforcement Delayed to Dec. 31

California Delays Prop 12 Enforcement Until End of 2023 Following Court Action

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Staff Reporter
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California will delay implementation of Proposition 12 until Dec. 31. (DTN file photo)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- Implementation of California's Proposition 12 was delayed by six months when a judge in Sacramento County Superior Court agreed to move the deadline from July 1 to Dec. 31, after the Supreme Court upheld the animal-welfare law in May.

Prop 12 enforcement has been delayed on a handful of occasions during the past couple of years. Local and state agriculture and business groups in California, including the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, California Grocers Association, California Restaurant Association and the California Retailers Association, filed legal action on Nov. 10, 2021.

The court agreed this week that there was a need to further delay implementation of Prop 12 because of the starts and stops of the law brought on by legal action.

National Pork Producers Council CEO Bryan Humphreys said the delay was "welcome news" for hog farmers and consumers across the country.

"Granting six months of additional relief for products in the supply chain allows grocery stores to remain stocked so the 40 million Californians have uninterrupted access to affordable, safe and nutritious pork products, especially with rising food prices," Humphreys said in a statement.

"While this temporary solution does not solve the challenges and uncertainty California Proposition 12 brings to our industry, NPPC looks forward to working with Congress to find a permanent solution to this problem."

Prop 12 makes it a criminal offense and civil violation to sell whole pork meat in California unless the pig it comes from is born to a sow that was housed within 24 square feet of space and in conditions that allow the sow to turn around without touching an enclosure. Prop 12 applies to any uncooked pork sold in the state, regardless of whether it was raised in California.

State lawmakers in New Jersey passed bills to ban gestation crates for sows and calves in the state and Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to sign them into law.

In Congress, Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., introduced the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression Act on June 15. The bill would preserve the right of states and local governments to regulate agriculture within their jurisdictions and blocks states from regulating production practices in other states.

One of the questions raised in court by the California groups is what to do with pork meat in inventory purchased before July 1.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture issued a document addressing the issue following the Supreme Court decision in May.

"We recognize that current inventory is transient and as purchases of compliant products begin to be made after July 1, 2023, pork products in current stocks will eventually be cleared from freezers and retail stores in California," the state said in the document.

"CDFA understands that there will necessarily be a period of transition. CDFA reiterates that for the remainder of 2023, we intend to focus our limited implementation resources."

Compliance for U.S. farmers is expected to be costly.

A 2021 Rabobank report said the U.S. pork industry faces a daunting task to comply with the law.

"With less than 4% of the U.S. sow housing currently able to meet the new standard, Rabobank expects a shortfall in compliant pork to bifurcate the U.S. market, leaving California with a severe pork deficit (and high prices), while generating a surplus in the rest of the U.S. market," the report said.

Rabobank said Prop 12's restrictions likely would lead more producers across the country to think twice about exporting to California.

If producers outside California adjust their operations to meet Prop 12, Rabobank said production flows would drop by at least 25%, "which disrupts the entire supply chain."

Rabobank estimates at least 15% of U.S. hog producers would face "considerable cost" to convert their operations.

To make a move from the industry standard of 18 to 20 square feet per sow to a compliant spacing of 24 square feet per sow, a producer would require 20% to 25% more barn space or force a reduction in stocking densities, the study said.

Rabobank said an average barn could cost $1,600 to $2,500 per sow, or $3 million to $4.5 million total.

The California market is critical for many producers, as the state boasts the largest domestic market for pork at 14% of all U.S. consumption.

Based on current estimates of the number of producers likely to convert sow housing to meet California's demands, Rabobank said the U.S. producers would fill just 40% to 50% of demand.

Read more on DTN:

"SCOTUS Lets Proposition 12 Stand,"…

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Todd Neeley

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