September 21, 2023

‘A strain on pork farmers and consumers’

Proposition 12 decision under review in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — Proposition 12 could have limited effect on new hog barn construction in Indiana, according to the head of Indiana Pork.

“We are very disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision. Misguided regulations generated by one state, but applied nationally, place a strain both on pork farmers and consumers,” said Josh Trenary, executive director of Indiana Pork.

On May 11, the Supreme Court upheld the 2018 California ballot initiative that bans the sale of pork, eggs and veal in the state unless the animals that produce those products have a defined amount of space. For pregnant sows, that is at least 24 square feet of usable floor space per pig. The National Pork Producers Council and other groups challenged the ballot initiative.

The construction of new swine facilities overall has slowed in the state. As of May 5, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management had six pending sow-related projects, with a total of just over 8,000 sow spaces.

“Growth has slowed down due to facility cost and profitability issues that we have been dealing with for months now. So we don’t see a major impact at least on projects already in the permitting phase,” said Trenary.

Pork producers in Indiana and across the country will turn to examining the specifics of the California law to see if it is feasible to adapt their own operations to meet the stricter space requirements.

“The pork industry has dealt with regulatory wins and losses for decades. The next priority in the near term is for the pork industry to begin the dialogue with the state of California to ensure smooth implementation to minimize the impact to both producers and consumers,” said Trenary.

The justices voting in favor of Proposition 12 were: Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas. The justices dissenting were Samuel Alito, Jr., Ketanji Brown-Jackson, Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts.

Here are some reactions from other pork organizations:


“I was really surprised by the ruling. We felt pretty confident that we were going to get a ruling in favor and that supported us so it caught us by surprise. We know that the practices we currently use on our sow farms are what’s best for our sows. We already know that. Just because the Supreme Court ruled against us doesn’t change the fact that we believe what we are doing is best for our animals.” — Chad Leman, president, Illinois Pork Producers Association, and pig farmer from Eureka, Illinois.


“Ohio’s pork-producing families have always, and will continue to, put the well-being of their animals at the top of their daily agenda. That’s why it’s unfortunate that the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that upholds California’s Proposition 12 will not achieve better animal care. The enactment of this unscientific mandate, only approved by a contentious 5-4 opinion by the Court, will lead to multiple unfortunate outcomes — including much higher prices for pork for California’s millions of consumers. This decision opens a door for other misguided regulations that further take away more decision-making from our farmers who already face many threats from those who simply don’t have the expertise to know what’s best for consumers, livestock, and the environment. Despite this reality, Ohio’s producers are resilient and will continue to adapt to today’s ever-changing realities as they strive to produce high-quality, sustainable protein for the world’s consumers.” — Cheryl Day, executive vice president, Ohio Pork Council, New Albany, Ohio.


“The health and safety of their pigs are a top priority for Iowa pig farmers, and we are frustrated to see the Supreme Court uphold Prop 12. This ruling sets a bad precedent, enabling other states to regulate commerce outside their boundaries. Consumers, especially low-income ones who rely on affordable nutritious pork to feed their families, will ultimately suffer due to higher food prices. Some small and medium-sized producers who are already dealing with high feed costs and inflation, will also sadly go out of business as they struggle to comply.” — Trish Cook, president, Iowa Pork Producers Association, and pig farmer from Winthrop, Iowa.


“We are very disappointed with the Supreme Court’s opinion. Allowing state overreach will increase prices for consumers and drive small farms out of business, leading to more consolidation. We are still evaluating the Court’s full opinion to understand all the implications. NPPC will continue to fight for our nation’s pork farmers and American families against misguided regulations.” — Scott Hays, president, National Pork Producers Council, and pig farmer from Monroe City, Missouri.

Jeannine Otto

Jeannine Otto

Field Editor