October 01, 2023

Sens. Ernst, Marshall fight back Calif. prop 12

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst and Kansas Republican Sen. Roger Marshall are co-sponsoring a bill to override California’s Proposition 12 which requires hogs to be raised under specific conditions for pork products to be sold in California.

Called the EATS Act (Exposing Agricultural Trade Suppression), Ernst questioned how California’s Proposition 12 will be enforced knowing how much pork products from across the country are sent to California.

Last month, the Supreme Court backed California’s animal cruelty law that requires more space for breeding pigs, a ruling the pork industry says will lead to higher costs nationwide for pork chops and bacon.

“While the Constitution addresses many weighty issues, the type of pork chops California merchants may sell is not on that list,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in an opinion for the court.

Industry groups have said the law would mean expensive, industry-wide changes even though a majority of the farms where pigs are raised are not in California, the nation’s most populous state, but instead in the Midwest and North Carolina. Iowa is a leader in hog production in the country.

The case before the court involved California’s Proposition 12, which voters passed in 2018. It said that pork sold in the state needs to come from pigs whose mothers were raised with at least 24 square feet of space, with the ability to lie down and turn around. That rules out confined “gestation crates,” metal enclosures that are common in the pork industry.

“These liberal states, they would be allowed to come and inspect. We don’t believe this. We don’t want these extremes coming. They should not be allowed them to punish our hardworking farmers. It’s overreaching, unconstitutional policy. If we can get it into law, it prohibits interfering agriculture production of any state,” Ernst said Wednesday on WHO Radio.

Ernst questioned how California can make sure its ruling is being followed.

“Will every hog producer have to provide traceability of the meat? How do you do that if it goes into so many products, sausage, bacon. Meats might be co-mingled. One might be from an Iowa producer and another from Kansas. Who knows?”

Ernst said the EATS bill will stop Proposition in California as federal regulation and laws would override individual state’s ability for this kind of legislation.

“It does beg the question, what is the enforceability of it,” she said about Proposition 12.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and the Iowa-based National Pork Producers Council sued to overturn Proposition 12. They said that while Californians consume 13% of the pork eaten in the United States, nearly 100% of it comes from hogs raised outside the state, including in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and North Carolina. The vast majority of sows, meanwhile, are not raised under conditions that would meet Proposition 12′s standards.

“Food security is national security. Allowing that Proposition 12 to stand, won’t only Iowa producers but does really have the potential to devastate our ag industry clear across the entire United States,” she said.

Associated Press contributed to this story.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.