March 04, 2024

Illinois pork producers lead Prop 12 farm bill fix

EUREKA, Ill. — The Illinois Pork Producers Association is leading a call to members of the Illinois congressional delegation for a legislative remedy to state-by-state livestock production requirements.

On Jan. 22, the IPPA sent a letter to the members of the Illinois congressional delegation asking that legislators include some answer to California’s Proposition 12 in the upcoming farm bill.

“We have to address the problem that one state can dictate how other states raise their food,” said Chad Leman, an Illinois pork producer from Eureka and immediate past president of the IPPA.

The association did not cite a specific fix that it prefers for two ballot initiatives, one from California, the other from Massachusetts, that require pork, eggs and veal sold in those states to be raised according to a strict set of space requirements.

“We’re open to discussing what the fix looks like. We want to be part of that conversation. We have not been included in it and that is what we want to be part of,” Leman said.

The letter was cosigned by other Illinois commodity groups, including the Illinois Beef Association, Illinois Milk Producers Association, Illinois Corn Growers Association, Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Association of Meat Processors, Grain and Feed Association of Illinois and the Kaskaskia Watershed Association.

“We wanted to work with the other commodity groups in drafting a letter that they would be willing to sign onto. We drafted the letter and presented it to those groups at the Illinois Agricultural Legislative Roundtable,” Leman said.

“We met with those groups to gauge their willingness to sign onto the letter and they were very ready to do that. They agreed with what we said.”

The letter was sent to all members of the Illinois congressional delegation, including the five Illinois members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee,

Republicans Mike Bost and Mary Miller and Democrats Nikki Budzinski, Jonathan Jackson and Eric Sorenson, and Illinois’ two senators, Democrats Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin.

The letter references the Supreme Court decision on Prop 12. On May 11, the court upheld the 2018 ballot initiative in a 5-4 decision.

“In its decision, the Supreme Court made clear that despite the real problems posed by a law like Proposition 12, it’s not the court’s job to fix it,” the IPPA said in the letter to Congress.

“Rather, it is up to Congress to take action and assert its authority to regulate the interstate commerce of pork.”

Leman said a big concern for producers is that similar ballot initiatives will be introduced and passed by other states, potentially creating a state-by-state patchwork quilt of varying requirements.

The letter does not specify what kind of legislative fix in the farm bill that producers prefer, only asking for “protection.”

“We … ask Congress to address Proposition 12 in the upcoming farm bill and urge you to ensure any farm bill reauthorization includes protection from a 50-state compliance network,” the letter concludes.

Leman said the clock is ticking on a legislative fix.

“We believe there are going to be at least a dozen more states that will put some kind of ballot initiative to voters in the next year or two, regarding how they want to see their pork raised,” he said.

“Each of those might have requirements that are slightly different than Proposition 12 or Question 3. It’s just unrealistic to expect producers to meet different demands for each state for a staple protein like pork.”

Leman said the impacts of the California law, which impacts 13% to 15% of total U.S. domestic pork consumption, already are being felt by producers like himself.

“I think all producers are feeling the impact in the prices they are receiving at the packers right now. Of the 120,000 pigs that our farm markets every year, none of that pork can go to California now. None of our barns are compliant for their rules and requirements,” he said.

“The reason we haven’t complied is because we don’t feel that’s the best way to take care of our hogs. The market is very shaky and uncertain because none of the packers is sure how much pork they are going to be able to sell into California.”

Jeannine Otto

Jeannine Otto

Field Editor