A California law regulating the sale of pork, which was recently upheld by the Supreme Court, could cost pork producers millions, driving up the price consumers pay, an Iowa farmer told Fox News Digital.
“We’ve done our part, but not every farm has been able to do that,” fourth-generation farmer Dwight Mogler said, explaining how his facilities have changed to comply with new, strict standards imposed by California. “At some point in time, your appetite for debt, your ability and appetite for risk, your lender’s appetite for risk reaches a point where you go no further. And then you’re forced with the decision of basically going out of business or shutting the farm down and selling it.”
California’s Proposition 12, a 2018 ballot measure that was approved by voters, banned the sale of pork products unless the animal from which it derived was housed in specific space requirements of at least a 24-square-foot pen among other standards. The law was challenged, but upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision in May.
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“People have really lost an understanding of how true farms work today,” Mogler said.
Two agricultural associations – NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation – challenged the 2018 law, saying almost no farms satisfy those housing conditions, and that the “massive costs of complying” will “fall almost exclusively on already out-of-state farmers,” passing them on to consumers across the U.S..
The Justice Department also argued against the state’s standards, saying they were a violation of the Constitution’s dormant commerce clause, which barred states from passing legislation that discriminates against or burdens interstate commerce.
A California law upheld by the Supreme Court in May is putting pork producers at risk of losing their businesses, an Iowa farmer says. (Maika Elan/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
But, Mogler said special interest groups who supported Proposition 12 don’t understand isolating a pig in a more confined space is a purposeful farming technique aimed toward protecting the animal.
These groups “don’t appreciate modern animal agriculture,” Mogler said. “We protect [animals] from the weather. We protect them from transmission of disease.”
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Mogler told Fox News the pigs are isolated from each other 24 hours a day to protect themselves from each other. During the sow’s heat cycle, when the female pig is preparing for pregnancy, they can become very aggressive.
“All those practices … we employ to protect the health and the comfort of the animals that we care for,” Mogler said. “And so it’s very troubling to us that somebody else would impose standards when who knows best other than those of us who [have farmed] for multiple generations.”
Mogler’s family has been farming since the 1800s. He says farmers know best about animal welfare techniques. (Courtesy: Dwight Mogler)
But supporters of Prop. 12 have said California residents voted for this referendum and that greater awareness of ethical farming practices is fairly driving market practices.
“We’re delighted that the Supreme Court has upheld California Proposition 12 – the nation’s strongest farm animal welfare law – and made clear that preventing animal cruelty and protecting public health are core functions of our state governments,” Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States said in a statement Thursday.
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“It’s astonishing that pork industry leaders would waste so much time and money on fighting this commonsense step to prevent products of relentless, unbearable animal suffering from being sold in California,” she said.
Pork farmers have said California raises almost no hogs but accounts for 13% of the nationwide pork consumption. It is a $26 billion industry, and Prop 12 could cost them up to $350 million to comply with California’s requirements, according to the National Pork Producers Council.
In anticipation of the Supreme Court upholding the California law, Mogler adapted one his farms in South Dakota to meet Prop. 12 standards. The pork producer said he spent around $20 million to accommodate the standards over the last few years.
The Supreme Court voted to uphold Proposition 12 on May 11. The law should be implemented starting July 1, but the pork industry is fighting to push back the date to accommodate the requirements. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
“We are in an unprecedented time in modern production of extended periods, periods of losses,” Mogler said. “A lot of businesses, pork producers like myself, are going through a very, very high level of financial stress today in spite of The Supreme Court ruling, and so the timing really could not have been worse.”
And since the final renovations for his Prop. 12 compliant farm ended in February, Mogler told Fox News the conception rate for his pigs went from nearly 96% to 70%.
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“We were not successful, therefore we have to inseminate them again or remove them from the herds and replace them with a younger female,” Mogler said. “We’re on a steep learning curve.”
Proposition 12 is supposed to be implemented starting July 1, but Mogler said the pork industry has been fighting to push back the implementation date to give farmers time to meet the requirements.
“The financial stress is real. The uncertainty is real,” Mogler said. “So this is a very serious situation for a lot of families today.”
Brianna Herlihey contributed to this report.