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California’s bacon law: Complaint over new animal welfare rule, adds uncertainty over salt pork shortage in 2022, pork prices rise

SACRAMENTO, California — A coalition of California restaurants and grocers has filed a lawsuit to block implementation of a new farm animal welfare law, adding to uncertainty about whether bacon and other fresh pork products will be much more expensive or are in short supply in the state when the new rules go into effect on New Year’s Day.

The lawsuit is the latest step in a tumultuous three-year process to enact rules that are widely endorsed by voters, but that remains questionable even as the legislation is enacted. Since voters passed Proposition 12 2-to-1 in November 2018, state officials have missed deadlines to enact specific regulations governing the humane treatment of supply animals. meat for the California market.

Most hog farms have not made the changes to comply with the law. And now a coalition of business owners is looking to delay more than two years.

“We’re saying this isn’t going to work,” said Nate Rose, a spokeswoman for the California Grocery Store Association.

While groups are working to delay the measure, the state has eased the transition to the new system. It already allows pork processed under the old rules and stored in cold storage for sale in California by 2022, which could prevent weekly or even monthly shortages.

As Josh Balk, head of farm animal protection efforts at the Humane Society of the United States, puts it, Californians need not fear “the pork industry’s claims of the end of the world. “

Simply put, the law requires that piglets, laying hens and calves have enough space to stand and turn. For pigs, that means they can no longer be kept in narrow “pregnancy crates” and must have 24 square feet (2.23 square meters) of usable space.

Egg and veal producers appear to be able to meet the new law, but pig farmers say the changes would be too costly and impossible until the state approves final regulations. for new standards. An estimate from North Carolina State University shows that the new standard will cost about 15% more per head for a farm with 1,000 breeding pigs.

The National Pork Producers Council has challenged California’s right to impose standards on businesses in other states, but so far those efforts have failed.

California is the nation’s largest market for pork, and pork producers in major states like Iowa provide more than 80 percent of the roughly 255 million pounds (115 million kilograms) that restaurants and grocers eat. used by California’s goods each month, according to Rabobank, a global food and agricultural financial services company.

Without that supply, it’s not clear whether a state that consumes about 13% of the nation’s pork supply has enough of the meat it needs. The North American Meat Institute, an industry group, said packers and processors “will do their best to serve the California market.”

“What’s going to happen in California? I don’t know,” said Michael Formica, general counsel with the National Pork Producers Council. “One thing we know is there will be a finite supply for sale there.”

Adding to the uncertainty is a lawsuit by the California Grocery Store Association, the California Restaurant Association, the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the California Retailers Association, and Kruse & Sons, a meat processor filed last month in Sacramento County. The lawsuit seeks a 28-month delay until the final rules governing the implementation of the rules are formally adopted.

California’s agricultural and health departments said the voter-backed measure did not give them enough time to pass final regulations. Agencies are still receiving public comment for the December amendment. That means it could be months before the final rules are passed.

Because of that delay, the groups stated in the lawsuit that they could not be certain that they were complying and could be subject to penalties provided by law.

“Our concern is uncertainty,” said Rose, of the grocery store association. He said a judge had scheduled a trial for March, but the group was pushing for an earlier date.

If the law goes into effect on January 1, the state could avoid an immediate shortage or sharp price spike because the industry has about 466 million pounds (211 million kg) of pork in stock. Of course, not all of that meat can be sent to California, but when combined with new supplies from processors that meet the new standards, it should cover at least some of the demand.

Daniel Sumner, a professor at the University of California-Davis who has collaborated with colleagues to study the price and supply effects of Proposition 12, said if there was disruption, it “would be resolved.” decisively”.

While an earlier study predicted a 60% increase in the price of bacon in California, a UC-Davis report estimated that the price of undercooked pork ended up increasing a manageable 8% in California.

Massachusetts passed a similar animal welfare law that goes into effect next month, but state lawmakers are considering a one-year delay because of supply concerns.

The accuracy of California’s estimates may depend on how many farmers adopt the new standards and how long the transition takes.

Iowa farmer Ron Mardesen has met California standards and for most of the year the sow is free to roam the large areas of his farm about 100 miles (160 km) from Des Moines. ) to the southwest.

With so much room, “They’re like a bunch of older sisters,” he said. “You can tell they’re happy. No one is screaming or crying.”

Chris Oliviero, general manager of Niman Ranch, a specialty meat company in Westminster, Colorado, said he hopes the new California regulations will help change a system he calls “lower costs by all means.” price.” Although Niman charges a higher fee for his pork, he said he hopes the new California regulations will help limit the environmental consequences of large-scale farming.

“There is volatility in the market, so I understand the concerns that come with that, but I also think most of the big agribusiness companies have proven that when they put their heart into it,” said Oliviero. , they are very capable of solving complex problems.

The video in the media player above was used in a previous report.

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https://abc13.com/california-bacon-law-new-in-pork-prices-ca/11330676/ California’s bacon law: Complaint over new animal welfare rule, adds uncertainty over salt pork shortage in 2022, pork prices rise

Dais Johnston

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