Pay attention to Proposition 12

Cyndi’s Two Cents

Pay attention to Proposition 12

California’s Proposition 12, the Farm Animal Confinement Initiative, was on the ballot in California as an initiated state statute on November 6, 2018. The measure was approved. Implementation is set to begin January 1, 2022.

Why should we care if voters in a state two thousand miles away supported an initiative to establish minimum space requirements for confinement of lay hens, breeding pigs and veal calves?  We should care because the costs and consequences of Prop 12 are high and far-reaching.  The law provides no animal welfare or food safety benefit while potentially disrupting and causing substantial burdens on all producers, processors, distributors and ultimately – consumers.

Prop 12 bans the sale of pork, veal and eggs from animals raised outside of California if their living conditions fail to meet the new standards.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) and the California Department of Public Health were made responsible for implementation of the measure’s implementation.  certification process. CDFA estimates third-party certifiers will need to certify about 6,000 distributors in California; 1,100 in-state egg and pork producer operations; and 12,750 out-of-state, including out-of-country, egg, pork, and veal producer operations raising animals for covered product destined to be sold in California. 

Let’s say the cost to covert a breeding hog farm to comply with Prop 12 runs about $100,000.  That is only the beginning. Farmers need to consider a smaller inventory of sows and higher piglet death loss.

A study from RaboResearch released early this year suggests the US pork supply chain could face serious disruption in 2022 due to Proposition 12.

Christine McCracken, senior analyst for animal protein with Rabobank says California accounts for 14 percent of US pork consumption but produces less than 2 percent of its own pork needs. “Roughly 20 percent of US pork would need to be compliant with Proposition 12 standards,” she says.  “As a result, you’d seen an inability to reach sufficient quantities by the deadline and a shortage of pork in California.”

Which, she said, would likely result in increased costs for consumers. 

Less than 4 percent of US sow housing currently meets the new standards.  McCracken says producers have been reluctant to make the costly investments needed to comply with the new rules as Proposition 12 continues to be challenged in courts.  She said there are very few people who are breaking ground until they know more and have some premiums offered by packers to ensure they are going to be able to cover those additional costs.

McCracken said if the regulations go into place as written on January 1, the disruptions wouldn’t likely occur until later in the year.  Suppliers that are selling into California might see a bit of a disruption. The rest of the United States would then have a surplus of non-Proposition 12-compliant pork. And, she said, US pork producers would see a significant drop in hog prices.

Here is what Proposition 12 looks like to me: No animal welfare or food safety benefit. Huge financial investment to convert housing on the farm. Costly implementation and certification process for the state, for producers and for distributors. Disruption in supply of product to consumers. Higher prices for consumers.  Lower prices for producers.

Pay attention to those anti-animal agriculture agitators who claim animal welfare is the motivation for their initiative campaign.