Iowa lawsuit over California’s hog-confinement law headed for a hearing


By: Clark Kauffman, Iowa Capital Dispatch 

July 20, 2021


A federal judge will hear arguments next month in a case that involves Iowa pork producers and their challenge of a California state law restricting the sale of pork in that state.


The Iowa Pork Producers Association has requested a preliminary injunction that would block enforcement of California’s Proposition 12. The state of California has moved to dismiss the pork producers’ lawsuit. Both motions are expected to be addressed during an Aug. 13 hearing at Cedar Rapids’ federal courthouse.


The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of Proposition 12. The 2018 California state law imposes restrictions on pork sold within that state with the intent of ensuring that breeding pigs have enough room to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. One element of the law defines as “cruel confinement” a breeding-pig enclosure that provides less than 24 square feet – the equivalent of a 6-foot by 4-foot area – of usable floor space per pig.


The law applies to all of the pork sold in California, regardless of where it was raised. Nearly one-third of the hogs raised in America come from Iowa. In 2020, Iowa had 960,000 breeding pigs on Iowa farms. The lawsuit alleges that for these breeding pigs to be raised in compliance with Proposition 12’s restrictions, Iowa producers would, collectively, be forced to spend “tens of millions of dollars” on an annual basis.


The lawsuit also claims California residents are responsible for 13% to 15% of the pork consumed in the United States. “Not selling to California is not an option,” the lawsuit states.


“The vast majority of Iowa pork producers are not currently in compliance with California’s turn-around requirements or 24-square-foot restrictions, and the estimated cost to come into compliance with these restrictions could reach millions of dollars” for individual pork producers, the lawsuit claims. Proposition 12, the producers’ association says, seeks to “unilaterally impose sweeping changes across the national pork production industry, based exclusively on California’s preferences.”


The lawsuit also claims Proposition 12...