California Proposition 12 Endangers Food Safety and Animal Health » Publications » Washington Policy Center

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Livestock is a complex and often misunderstood issue outside the agricultural community. Large communal enclosures are often considered the most humane by casual observers, but they don’t tell the whole story.

This is the case of California Proposal 12, which requires pork producers to provide 24 square feet of space for pigs to live without touching the side of a stall or other animal. This represents a significant change in the way penning is currently managed in hog production in the United States.

The legislation has created problematic perimeters for livestock housing inside and outside of California’s borders, primarily for hog producers who must now consider whether to upgrade their existing pens or build new ones. . This is especially difficult considering that California is responsible for less than one percent of all pork production in the United States

Unlike the space requirements of Prop 12, pigs need a small space to live and grow – approximately 8 square feet. If given more space, rooting behaviors can become destructive to soils and pastures. The community pen creates its own challenges as aggressive pigs may attack their pen neighbors, posing safety risks. Communal enclosures also facilitate the spread of disease, posing health risks.

The health and safety risks to livestock themselves are the most significant herd management challenge created by Prop 12. It puts animals, no matter where they are kept, at risk of continued injury and need for antibiotic treatment.

The challenges built into Prop 12 don’t stop at the animals themselves. They also go to the grocery store. Think beyond bacon and remember that pork has been marketed as “the other white meat” for a generation because it’s a lean, high-protein meat that’s reasonably affordable.

Prop 12 drives up the cost of pork in various ways. Although Proposition 12 will cost consumers, it will cost hog producers first, as they will need to upgrade their on-farm pens to continue raising hogs. Most troubling is that smaller farms that cannot afford the paddock conversions will sell to companies like Tyson, Smithfield, JBS and Cargill.

Farms that can make the financial leap with paddock conversions without selling to large corporations will likely reduce their herd size to do so in an effort to balance herd size with paddock capacity, which will raise the price because there will be fewer animals to meet the same demand. . Finally, Proposition 12 requirements applied internationally may reduce the amount of pork imported, which amounts to a supply and demand problem similar to the overall herd size in the United States, but larger. ladder.

Whichever path pork producers take, there are costs associated with surviving the new rules. If producers choose to reduce their herd size and then upgrade their pens, it will cost them approximately $17.50 per animal just to reduce the size of their herd. Renovating an existing barn and adding the extra space required by Prop 12 for a 2,500 sow farm will cost approximately $600 per pig or $2.1 million. Building brand new Prop 12 compliant barns would cost approximately $3,800 per pig ($9.5 million in the 2,500 sow example). These estimates are based on construction costs in February and are likely much higher now.

Earlier this year, the Sacramento County Superior Court delay in applying Prop 12. The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) have appealed Proposition 12 to the Supreme Court, where it is due to be heard on Oct. 12. amicus brief in support of the AFBF and NPPC in the case, writing, “California has no legitimate interest in protecting the welfare of animals located out of state…the petitioners have plausibly alleged that Proposition 12 will have significant negative effects on the interstate pork market.

Prop 12 has been marketed as a tool for improving animal welfare and food safety. Instead, the proposal ignored the science of how to raise happy, healthy pigs and put the most food-insecure people in the country at risk by making food more expensive and out of reach.

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