Iowa Starting Line
No, California Isn’t Banning Bacon, but new Rule Could Have Iowa Impact
By Ty Rushing
No, California isn’t banning bacon or withholding ham from its residents.
However, the Golden State is restricting where its swine comes from via Proposition 12. This measure is why it has become a topic of interest in Iowa, the country’s top-pork producer. Californians consume about 13% of America’s pork, according to the California Pork Producers Association.
Recently, Iowa Republicans have taken up the issue as a political tool to bash what they see as “the radical left” and continue their false narrative about Democrats wanting to ban meat.
A US Sen. Joni Ernst press statement from last week begins with, “As California moves to effectively ban bacon and other animal agriculture products…” The word “effectively” is doing a lot of work in that sentence.
The real context behind the looming California rule is much more complicated, as these policies often are. Bacon is not being banned, the final guidelines aren’t even complete yet, but critics are correct that the end result could be higher food prices—it’s just unclear how much or where that impact will be felt most.
California voters approved Proposition 12 in 2018, an initiative that prohibits confining breeding pigs, egg-laying hens, and veal calves in a “cruel manner” and prohibits the sale of those animals’ byproducts if they are confined in a cruel manner.
Starting Jan. 1, 2022, any hogs raised, harvested, or sold in California have to be in compliance with the law, which requires the animal to have been raised in a space that allows a minimum of 24 square feet per hog, a four-foot increase from the previous standard.
While enacted in California, this law also applies to out-of-state producers who want to sell pork in the state. According to the Associated Press, only 4% of the country’s pork producers meet California’s criteria.
The Standardized Regulatory Impact Assessment of Proposed Regulations to Implement Proposition 12—a report commissioned for the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA)— noted that by increasing floor space from 20 feet to 24 feet “facility costs per sow would rise by about 20%.”
The National Pork Producers (NPP) and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) are among the groups that filed suit against California to overturn Proposition 12, a measure voters approved with 62 percent of the vote.
That particular suit has been in litigation since 2019, and NPP and AFBF argue that Proposition 12 violates the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution and that it will increase pork costs for consumers and producers and pose other harmful repercussions.
The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit recently upheld Proposition 12, which is why the issue is increasingly in the news lately. The court agreed the law could financially impact out-of-state farmers and in-state pork consumers but that California is within its right to enact it.
Another point of contention pork producers have made is that California still hasn’t finalized the regulations for Proposition 12 even as the Jan. 1 deadline nears. A 13-page draft of the regulations is widely available, but it is also subject to change.
Efforts to overturn Proposition 12 also reached the US Senate Chambers.
Iowa’s US senators, Chuck Grassley and Ernst, alongside fellow GOP senators John Cornyn and Cindy Hyde-Smith filed a bill on Friday that would block Proposition 12 and prevent other states from enacting similar measures.
Called the Exposing Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act, the legislation would “prevent states and local jurisdictions from interfering with the production and distribution of agricultural products in interstate commerce, and for other purposes.”
“I don’t know why anyone would want to live in a state where it’s almost impossible to buy bacon. But California wants to impose such a rule on its residents,” Grassley said. “Iowa has an abundance of agricultural products to offer and folks from coast to coast should be able to enjoy them. I’m glad to sponsor this bill which will protect Iowa farmers and producers and allow them the freedom to operate their farms as they see fit.”
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 13 other states have laws similar to California’s on the books, although not all of them have taken effect yet.
Christine McCracken, a Senior Analyst for Rabobank, a financial institution that specializes in the food and agriculture sector, estimates that Proposition 12 will lead to higher pork prices in California but create a pork surplus for the rest of the country.
The Proposition 12 report commissioned for the CDFA also seconds this.
“The proposed regulations will raise production costs in the pork supply chain, and retailers would raise retail prices to reflect such additional production costs,” the report reads.
“In response to a higher pork price, consumers would give up pork consumption or substitute other meat products (beef and chicken, for example) for pork products.”
So while California isn’t banning bacon, the price of it will very likely increase there once Proposition 12 takes effect.