… Farmer John’s hog ranch, owned by Smithfield Foods, maintains a “we’ll see" attitude. ”As you may know, the California Department of Food and Agriculture is more than two years late in providing final Prop 12 regulations, so there are no definitive rules with which to comply at this time,” says company spokesman Jim Monroe… Implementation of welfare rules for meat chicken has led to expansion of poultry ranches right here in Kings County with both Pitman Farms and Foster Farms expanding their ranches in the county and adding millions of birds of capacity — many free range operations…

 

 

Will California pork producers expand here? | John Lindt

 

John Lindt, The Hanford Sentinel (California)

Jan 6, 2022

 

Is there a California bacon shortage? Not yet, even though Prop 12 rules requiring more space for breeding pigs are in effect in California this new year. Besides worry about supply, there are fears that bacon will be going to $9 plus per pound. My one pound of bacon, bought at a local store after Jan 1, cost me $7.95. Other area grocers have bacon on sale for $5.98/lb. So far so good.

 

The 2018 animal welfare voter referendum passed statewide by 63%, requires egg-laying chickens, veal calves and pigs be given more room to stand up and turn around in farmers' barns. For pigs, the rules ban the use of gestation crates. The rules apply to any producer who wants to sell pork in California, even companies from out of state.

 

Despite the popularity of the proposition statewide, Kings County voted 57% no.

 

Regardless of the Jan. 1, 2022 deadline and a four-year wait to implement the law, most pork producers both in the state and outside have yet to comply with the new standard — a minimum of twenty-four square feet per pig. Rabobank estimates that just 4-5% of pig producers have done the construction work on the enhanced space mandate.

 

Producers argue that final rules by California have not been published.

 

California Pork Producers representative Jill Damskey notes that “final regulations are not yet approved and U.S. pork producers have been reluctant to make changes until they know exactly what is required.”

 

Even as they make that argument, opponents are lobbying the Supreme Court to throw the regulation out although they have declined to do so in the past. The industry insists adoption “could potentially mean limited availability of pork products for Californians which could lead to dramatic impacts on prices paid by consumers. Some estimates expect an increase of 50% to 60% in California.

 

Others disagree.

 

“There may be a brief period of disruption [when the regulations start Jan. 1], but nothing like the apocalyptic predictions of significant long-term shortages or drastically higher prices,” Richard J. Sexton, report co-author and distinguished professor of agricultural and resource economics at UC Davis, told CNN Business.

 

Corcoran’s Farmer John’s hog ranch, owned by Smithfield Foods, maintains a “we’ll see" attitude. ”As you may know, the California Department of Food and Agriculture is more than two years late in providing final Prop 12 regulations, so there are no definitive rules with which to comply at this time,” says company spokesman Jim Monroe.

 

No shortage for now

 

CDFA’s spokesman Steve Lyle says comments on new state rules are expected to be completed by mid-January. The agency says optimistically “we have had many discussions with pork producers who are planning not only to be compliant, but to expand their operations. Additionally, we believe there is sufficient product already in the supply chain to carry through for a number of months.”

 

The state consumes 15% of all U.S. pork so it is an important market for all the US pork industry that is concentrated in the corn belt.

 

Pressure to comply with California standards comes not just from California voters but major food companies like McDonald’s and Whole Foods who are backing the standard as are European countries that the US industry wants to export to.

 

The California pork industry is small in comparison to other state crops generating just $26 million in annual revenue compared to $1.3 billion in the poultry/egg sector, $3 billion for cattle or the top crop, at $7 billion — milk.

 

The idea that animal welfare rules in California would lead to skyrocketing egg prices turned out to be true for a few months a couple of years ago. Today, California eggs fetch a slight premium but adoption of the cage free standard is now nationwide and a dozen large eggs at the grocers this week in my town was $2.50.

 

There are plenty of egg ranches in California numbering about 6,500, says CDFA. That includes ranches, some very large, in the Central Valley they continue to operate after the new rules were put in place.

 

Implementation of welfare rules for meat chicken has led to expansion of poultry ranches right here in Kings County with both Pitman Farms and Foster Farms expanding their ranches in the county and adding millions of birds of capacity — many free range operations.

 

The operators say they plan to continue to meet consumer demand. Will the state pork producers do the same?

 

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