A little more than two months after California’s Prop 12 ballot initiative officially took effect, its impact on farmers and consumers is beginning to come into focus.

Unsurprisingly, reports indicate that the law is raising prices and curtailing pork purchases at the grocery store, while throwing pork producers — and ultimately all farmers — into a world of uncertainty about their future.

As you likely know by now, Prop 12 bans the sale of pork in California from hogs born to sows that don’t meet the state’s arbitrary space requirements — no matter where those hogs were raised. A similar law, called Question 3, is being implemented in Massachusetts.

Working the issue on both coasts

The law was a point of focus on two separate trips sponsored by Iowa Farm Bureau last week to opposite ends of the country. 

The 2024 Iowa Farm Bureau Market Study Tour took a small group, comprised primarily of hog farmers, to California for an on-the-ground look at how Prop 12 is being handled at all levels from production to retail. Spokesman reporter Corey Munson traveled with the group, and you’ll be reading his reports about the group’s meetings with regulators, farmers, meat processors, food distributors and retailers in the coming weeks. You’ll want to see his reporting on the issues that are bubbling to the surface, including sourcing difficulties for certain products since there isn’t enough compliant pork to meet demand.

Meanwhile, I accompanied another group of Farm Bureau leaders on the annual national policy trip to Washington, where Prop 12 was a topic of almost every meeting we had. 

USDA Chief Economist Seth Meyer gave us topline results of a new USDA survey showing price increases and reduced purchases as a result of the California law. 

“We can already see a 10% to 40% price increase for specific cuts of pork, and we can already see consumption is off based on scanner data,” Meyer said.  

Farm Bureau members, many of them livestock producers, told members of Congress how the California and Massachusetts laws are already affecting farmers and their worries about the chaos that could result if every state comes up with arbitrary production requirements for livestock and other agricultural products if Congress doesn’t establish parameters for protecting interstate commerce. 

Trade impacts

Even officials from the Mexican embassy told us they have concerns about Prop 12 and its potential impacts.

“It will have an implication on trade,” said Brenda Martinez, agricultural advisor at the Embassy of Mexico in Washington. “Are we going to have to have an agreement with each state now that they can set a specific rule? What happens if Florida imposes restrictions that tomatoes have to harvested before 10 a.m.?”

Up until now, there has been little agreement among lawmakers on a solution that prevents states from regulating production outside of their boundaries and protects the flow of products across state lines. But you can be assured that Farm Bureau will continue working on your behalf until a solution is found.