California makes bacon more expensive

Meat prices have gone up. The price of pork increased by 17% on last year. A California voting initiative, which is expected to take effect on Saturday, could push ham and bacon prices even higher.

The Farm Animal Cruelty Prevention Act, also known as Proposition 12, was supported by the Humane Society and approved by 63% of California voters in 2018. The law sets minimum requirements for space for farm animals and prohibits the sale of meat from raised animals. in accommodation that does not meet its specifications. State regulators will inspect farms located outside of the state to ensure they are in compliance. An owner or operator of a business, including supermarkets, restaurants and meat processors, who breaks the law could be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $ 1,000 or up to 180 days imprisonment, as well as civil penalties. This in a state where shoplifting is rarely prosecuted.

The law requires that laying hens, calves reared for calves and breeding pigs (sows) can lie down, stand up and turn around in the spaces in which they are housed without touching the walls of the stall or any other animal. Pig farmers will be the most affected. Most sows are housed in individual pens. Proposition 12 requires sows to have at least 24 square feet of floor space to move around, which would effectively require large group pens.

Pig farmers warn that this could endanger the health and safety of sows, as diseases could spread more easily in group pens. Aggressive sows can also attack other sows in their pens. There is little evidence that these space regulations reduce the risk of foodborne illness. The law is another example of California trying to impose its liberal values ​​on the rest of the country.

California represents approximately 13% of pork consumed nationally, but only about 0.1% of the country’s pigs are born and raised there. Pig farmers say the costs of complying with Proposition 12 would be borne by every pork consumer in the country due to complex supply chains.

Piglets after weaning are quickly moved to nurseries, which is necessary to protect the herds from disease. They are then reared for six to eight weeks until they become “feeder pigs” and then moved to separate feed farms for an additional 16 to 17 weeks. Once they reach 240 to 280 pounds, the pigs are sold to slaughterhouses and packers, who process them into pieces that are shipped across the country and abroad.

Only about 4% of hog farms nationwide now comply with the law. National Pork Producers Council believes compliance would increase production costs 9.2% at the farm level, or about $ 13 per pig.

Proposition 12 would also require elaborate tracking systems to certify that pork sold in California is from a sow on a compliant farm. Such tracking systems have yet to be developed, and the state has yet to finalize rules detailing how companies are expected to comply.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture did not propose public comment rules to implement the law until May, about 18 months later than the date called for in the polling initiative. The agency offered revisions on Dec. 3, but final rules aren’t expected until next year.

The state says pork currently in cold storage can continue to be sold after December 31. Yet Seaboard Foods, one of the country’s largest pork producers and processors, recently said it would stop shipments of some pork products to California due to regulatory uncertainty. . Michael Formica, general counsel for the National Pork Producers Council, says other meat processors are weighing their options.

A to study Consultants from the Hatamiya Group found that if half of the pork supply was suddenly lost in California, bacon prices would jump 60%. But California is too big a market for meat packers to avoid in the long run, so they’re likely to demand that their suppliers comply. Small farmers who cannot afford to do so are likely to either close their doors or sell to larger producers or packers. This will lead to further consolidation in the pork industry, which President Biden has urged the US Department of Agriculture to investigate.

Pork producers and retailers have filed a lawsuit to block Proposition 12, which they say is extraterritorial regulation that violates the dormant doctrine of the Supreme Court’s Commerce Clause. The court has repeatedly stated that a state cannot directly regulate commerce conducted entirely in another state, even if it has cross-border “effects”.

While the Constitution grants states police powers to protect public health and welfare, California conceded when it proposed the Proposition 12 regulations in May that they “have no impact. direct impact on the human health and well-being of residents of California “and are not” accepted as standards within the scientific community for reducing foodborne illness.

If the Golden State can dictate the welfare of farm animals to the rest of the country, why can’t it demand that companies that sell goods or services in the state also obey its labor and labor laws. weather ? It would destroy the American federal system. The Supreme Court will consider the National Pork Producers Council and American Farm Bureau Federation’s petition on Friday, January 7. The judges will have something to chew on.

Ms. Finley is a member of the Journal’s editorial board.

Journal editorial report: This is not transitory. For most Americans, this is terrible. Images: Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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