By JOE MUELLER
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER
(The Center Square) — Years before a California law might negatively impact Missouri’s pork industry, farming organizations realized possible implications for farmers and consumers.
“The fundamental question is can a state, like California, impose a regulatory framework that puts the compliance on people outside the state?” Garrett Hawkins, president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, said in an interview with The Center Square. “That’s what the issue is before the United States Supreme Court.”
Mr. Hawkins said the American Farm Bureau began communicating the implications of California’s Proposition 12 years before it was passed by 63% of voters in 2018. The law bans the raising or importing of pork, veal or eggs if the animals were “confined in a cruel manner,” described as in areas below minimum square-feet requirements.
Missouri ranks sixth nationally in pork production with more than $926 million in annual farm receipts, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
California consumes 13% of the nation’s pork and imports 99.87% of pork consumed, according to documents filed by 26 attorneys general in a brief with the Supreme Court. Some agricultural experts predict the price of bacon will increase 60% in California.
Mr. Hawkins said approximately 4% of pork producers throughout the country would currently meet California’s requirements. Pork producers outside of California will be forced to pass the cost of compliance onto all consumers. A single hog is processed into cuts sold nationwide in response to demand.
“Missouri’s pork producers would not have access to a market because of their method of production,” Mr. Hawkins said. “Their methods are sound and scientifically based. That’s what gets to the heart of this and why our farmers and ranchers are asking why one state should be able to dictate practices for producers across the nation.”
Nine states have hog welfare laws, covering 3% of the national herd, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. California and Massachusetts have retail sales restrictions prohibiting the sale of pork originating from animals in gestation-crate methods.
In 2026, Ohio will become the largest hog-producing state with gestation-crate restrictions. The USDA estimates the total herd of hogs and breeding herds affected by state regulations will remain below 10%, based on an analysis of inventories in 2020.
“If California or one state can dictate a practice, what’s going to prevent it from doing this for other sectors of agriculture?” Mr. Hawkins asked. “My guess is the vineyards in California would not like Missouri setting standards for production and processing of grapes for wine and then not allowing that to enter commerce in Missouri or other states.”Arguments in National Pork Producers v. Karen Ross, the secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, will be heard by the Supreme Court on Oct. 11.