Supreme Court Ruling Impacts Grain and Livestock Industries
This spring, Illinois pork producer Chad Leman received a grim announcement from the Supreme Court on his fiftieth birthday.
On May 11, 2023, the Supreme Court upheld California’s Proposition 12. The approved ballot initiative banned the use of gestation crates for whole pork meat sold in California.
“The Supreme Court gave me a gift that I really didn’t want,” said Leman, also the president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA). “Of roughly 75% (of the pork grown in the US) that is consumed here, California consumes 15% of it. It’s a really big deal.”
Although California consumes 15% of the United States domestic pork demand, the state produces less than 1% of it’s supply. The burden to comply with the regulations mostly falls on hog producers in other states working to meet the demand.
The regulations change the previous space requirement of 16 to 18 square feet per sow to 24 square feet per sow. The Illinois Pork Producers Association estimates approximately 350,000 hogs will need to change housing to meet the demand.
Leman said the process of converting barns to meet Proposition 12 requirements is not simple. The National Pork Producers Council estimates a farmer will invest $3,500 per sow to become compliant with the requirements. “That barn gets gutted, and we basically have to take it down to the concrete slabs and the roof. Then we need to change all the gating and the penning within the barn,” said Leman. “It’s not a quick decision. It’s a very complex one.”
As farmers look to potentially downsize their operations to meet Proposition 12 demands, Leman said the grain industry could be impacted. Leman’s family farm feeds over 80 million pounds of grain to hogs each year. He said most of the feed is corn and soybean meal.“This goes far beyond hog production,” Leman said. “It will affect corn producers and soybean producers.”
In June, the Superior Court for the County of Sacramento issued an extension to continue the sale of non-compliant whole pork meat until January 1, 2024. However, as hog farmers look towards the future, the Illinois Pork Producers Association advocates for a permanent federal solution in the 2023 farm bill.
IL Corn supports IPPA and works alongside the group as members of the Illinois Farmers Council, a group of agriculture-related associations from across the state.