Farmers say pork law would help people see where food comes from

HAMILTON, Ohio — The Biden administration and an Ohio think tank are among critics of a California law being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court. If the law is upheld, it could lead to higher costs for consumers, according to the filing. Yet family farmers in Butler County see another side.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of expense for (large hog farms) if they want to continue doing it (under) California rules,” said Becky Jones, co-owner of Hilltop Family Farm. “But we want people to know where your food comes from.”

Hilltop Family Farm raises pigs that are hand-fed in a one-acre paddock that is becoming more expensive with inflation, Jones said. This is the kind of cost that the big producers are fighting to bring down.

The National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation have filed a lawsuit against the state of California that will be settled in the US Supreme Court this fall. According to the filing, a proposal approved by California voters in 2018 could cripple the $26 billion-a-year pork industry.

Proposition 12 requires anyone selling pork in the Golden State to follow California’s rules. Pork producers must raise pigs with at least 24 square feet of living space before slaughter. It is designed to minimize animal cruelty and protect customers.

However, the NPPC and AFBF say the law violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause and would impose costly changes on out-of-state farms that would eventually be passed on to consumers.

Along with 15 state attorneys general and the Biden administration, the Buckeye Institute, an Ohio-based think tank, filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the pork industry.

“California’s extraterritorial regulation is inconsistent with federalism and is nothing more than an attempt to impose its progressive agenda on the will and judgment of voters in the 49 other most sensible states in this country, including including Ohio,” Robert Alt, president and CEO of The Buckeye Institute, said in a statement.

“They’ll say they have to feed the masses, but that’s just not how (pigs are) supposed to live anyway,” Jason Jones, co-owner of Hilltop Family Farm, said of the big farms in pig production.

Along with his wife, Jones feeds their pigs 80 pounds of feed a day, even with skyrocketing prices. They also see thin margins. Their main outlet, the Northside Farmer’s Market, saw a sharp drop in the number of customers buying pork last year. Yet they are determined to meet higher standards than those prescribed in California.

“It’s not cheap,” Becky Jones said. “But I want for small farmers like us, we want people to know where your food is coming from.”

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