Apr 15, 2021 - News

Iowa farmers await fate of California animal cruelty proposition

Pigs in a sow stall
A sow stall with piglets. Photo: Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In the coming weeks, Iowa farmers should find out whether or not they'll have to comply with a proposition approved by California voters to prohibit sales of pork, eggs and veal that do not meet certain production standards.

Details: Proposition 12 takes effect next year and generally prohibits an animal from being confined in a manner that prevents lying down, standing up or fully extending its limbs. The proposition:

  • Requires at least 24 square feet of space per sow. (The typical is currently between 16-18, according to the National Pork Producers Council.)
  • Prohibits breeding stalls, often a metal enclosure that a sow can be kept in for weeks after delivery.
  • Mandates cage-free housing systems for egg-laying hens.

The latest: There are multiple ongoing legal challenges.

  • Iowa is one of 20 states that filed a brief last year in support of one lawsuit that challenges the proposition as an unconstitutional California power grab.

Critics — including the National Pork Producers Council — warned in court Wednesday that the standards are arbitrary and will cost Iowa farmers millions of dollars in lost sales and compliance costs, raising prices for consumers.

  • Advocates counter that the freedom-of-movement standards are reasonable.

The big picture: With nearly 40 million residents, California is a key market for Iowa farmers.

  • Iowa farmers would generally need to conform to California’s standards to continue to do business there if the proposition isn’t struct down in the courts.

What's next: Court rulings are expected in the coming weeks.

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