California voters approved Proposition 12 more than three years ago. It gave sows, calves of veal, as well as egg-laying hens more space and prohibited the sale of eggs, pork, and veal from farms in states that don’t comply with the new standards. Although the law was in effect on Sunday, state officials were still working to finalize regulations.
“We don’t know what to expect,” said a meat industry spokeswoman ahead of the weekend implementation. “A few companies have announced they will pull certain products from California markets.”
Lawmakers in Massachusetts, worried about potential pork shortages, decided in December to delay until Aug. 15 a similar set of rules for hog farms and sale of pork products in their state.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture said it lacked authority to delay the compliance deadline. Its Animal Care Program (ACP), created to implement Prop 12, said on Dec. 23 it was “focused on helping stakeholders meet the deadlines outlined in Proposition 12, including the requirements for egg-laying hens and breeding pigs that go into effect January 1, 2022.”
Eggs and pork already in inventory or commerce before the end of 2021 “will still be legal to sell in California,” said the ACP, thereby buffering the transition to the new rules. The ACP sent reminders to grocers, restaurants, and foodmakers in September, stressing that “it is your responsibility to only source Prop 12 compliant shell eggs, liquid eggs, veal, and pork meat for commercial sale in California.”
There are many estimates of the impact on consumers. These include an increase in pork costs of $10 per individual per year and a 60% increase if there was half as much pork available. Prop 12 requires hog farmers to provide 24 square feet of space for each of their sows, except for a few days before they give birth and for three weeks afterward, until their piglets are weaned. Nearly all of California’s pork comes from other states.
The Supreme Court could make a decision this week on whether to hear a challenge by Prop 12 by two farm organizations, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the National Pork Producers Council. These groups lost at both the district and appellate courts levels. The groups contend that Prop 12 is an unconstitutional burden on farmers and consumers throughout the United States. Justices were due to discuss the challenge during a conference on Friday, said DTN/Progressive Farmer.
Farm groups and the meat sector have repeatedly tried to stop Prop 12 from going to court. The Supreme Court rejected a meat industry challenge on June 28. “Proposition 12 is the strongest law in the world addressing farm animal confinement,” said the Humane Society of the United States.
Sunday also was the mandatory compliance date for the federal 2016 GMO food labeling law, which requires packages to disclose whether genetically engineered foods are among the ingredients. Companies can print a statement on the package, use a symbol to denote “bioengineered” contents, provide the information via a QR code, or direct consumers to a website or telephone number. A can of tomato soup, for instance, would declare, “Contains a bioengineered food ingredient,” and would specify that GE sugar was an ingredient. A yogurt maker put the words “Contains Bioengineered Food Ingredients” beneath the list of ingredients.
The majority of foods containing GMOs will escape labeling, says the Center for Food Safety, which has sued the USDA over the regulations. Consumers will not be able to easily identify GMO foods if packages rely on QR codes or USDA-approved symbols, said the consumer group, which also objected to describing the foods as “bioengineered” when they are better known as GMOs.
Source: Successful Farming