Farm Progress

Battle over California Prop 12 continues

Republican governors call for congressional action.

By Joshua Baethge

Republican governors from 11 states are calling on Congress to allow pork producers to bypass California’s Proposition 12. The controversial law sets minimum space requirements for breeding pigs, veal calves and egg laying hens. It also bans sales of meat and eggs from those animals if their confined spaces fail to meet minimum size criteria.

In May, the Supreme Court upheld Proposition 12, effectively forcing producers from other states to adhere to California law in order to access that state’s market.

Californians consume approximately 13% of all pork produced in the U.S. However, less than 1% of the nation’s pork comes from the Golden State.

The 11 Republican governors would like to see the Exposing Agricultural Trade Suppression Act re-introduced this congressional session. It was last introduced in August 2021 by Sen. Robert Marshall, R- Kan., Chuck Grassley, R- Iowa, Joni Ernst, R- Iowa, John Cornyn, R- Texas, and Cindy Hyde-Smith, R- Miss. Their bill would have restricted state and local governments from imposing agricultural laws or standards on items produced in other states. It would also prohibit states from enacting additional requirements to existing federal law or to state laws where the product is produced.

“Despite California’s reliance on its fellow states for food, Proposition 12 threatens to disrupt the very system Californians depend on for their pork supply,” the governors say in their June 13 letter. “Its strict, activist-drafted requirements for pig farming sharply depart from the practices which are lawful in our states.”

The letter was to House and Senate majority and minority leaders. It was signed by Governors Kim Reynolds, R-Iowa, Jim Pillen, R- Neb., Sarah Sanders, R- Ark., Eric Holcomb, R- Ind., Tate Reeves, R- Miss., Mike Parson, R- Mo., Greg Gianforte, R- Mont., Joe Lombardo, R- Nev., Kevin Stitt, R- OK., Greg Abbott, R- Texas, and Glenn Youngkin, R-Va.

Those states account for 54% of the nation’s pork production. In the letter, the governors contend that the country already has one of the world’s safest, most efficient and most humane food industries. They also believe that Proposition 12 puts an undue burden on pork producers and will ultimately lead to higher prices for consumers.

“America’s pork production system is inherently interstate in its scope and integration. A single state, or handful of states, should not have the power to radically disrupt that system,” the governors’ letter continues. “Given the profound consequences of California’s experiment—and cognizant that it should be the rare case where Congress exercises its Commerce Clause power to preempt state law—this is a situation where federal legislation is appropriate and necessary.”