Q&A: Don’t Mess with Iowa Pork With U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Q&A: Don’t Mess with Iowa Pork

With U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley

Q: What is Proposition 12?

A: In May the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to a California law known as Proposition 12 that dictates how farmers raise their livestock to gain market access to consumers in the most populous state in the country. The ruling upheld the state ballot measure approved by California voters in 2018. It mandates farming practices for breeding sows and laying hens that don’t comport with common sense, humane and productive agriculture. For instance, Iowa farmers would have to stop using gestation crates that protect sows and their piglets during pregnancy. This effectively bans the sale of pork and eggs in the state unless farmers abide by its rules. Proposition 12 tests the boundaries of an enumerated power in the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, known as the interstate commerce clause. It says Congress holds the power to regulate commerce among the states. Keeping in mind that California has less than one percent of breeding pigs in the United States, its mandates paint a bullseye on the backs of Iowa pork producers and others whose sows are bred in pens not compliant with California’s strict guidelines. This ruling arguably infringes on the livelihoods of Iowa pork producers, especially independent pork producers who already are squeezed by high feed costs. Rising interest rates for expensive capital investment in their operations to get in compliance with Proposition 12 would put even more financial hardship on pork producers. California’s Proposition 12 is a war on breakfast and will drive up costs to consumers who want to eat bacon and eggs for breakfast. It’s poor policymaking that will disadvantage food-insecure, low-income families by making it more expensive to put protein-rich pork on the table.

Q: What is the EATS Act?

A: Summertime is peak grilling season across America where backyard barbecues and cook-outs bring together friends and family to enjoy delicious hot dogs, brats, sausages, chops and tenderloins. Iowa pork producers raise 46 million pigs annually, making Iowa the number one pork producing state in the nation. In addition to serving a vital role in U.S. food security by fortifying the diets of the American people, the Iowa pork industry helps anchor local economies across the state, creating tens of thousands of jobs from farm to fork. More than 10,000 pork producers from around the world recently attended the World Pork Expo in Des Moines to learn about the latest advances in pork production and nutrition management. Iowa is ground zero for pork production and innovation. As Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator, I’m going whole hog on behalf of pork producers, workers and families who count on Iowa’s pork industry for their livelihoods. I’ve teamed up with Sens. Roger Marshall, Joni Ernst, John Cornyn and Cindy Hyde-Smith to reintroduce the Exposing Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act. Our bill would prohibit state and local governments from interfering with the production of agricultural products in other states; it would not prohibit state and local units of government from regulating farming and ranching within their own states. Our legislation is an example of our system of checks and balances at work. In the court’s majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that Congress has the power to regulate commerce, but has yet to enact legislation to displace Proposition 12. So, I’m working with lawmakers in the people’s branch to put an end to California’s war on breakfast and override the coastal state’s overreach into the Heartland’s bread basket. The high court’s ruling could have sweeping impact on other issues legislated in the states. What if California wanted to ban GMOs, herbicides, pesticides, or other ag products. Would it have a right to do so under this precedent? If Californians wanted to ban internal combustion engines, could they? This is a slippery slope. Congress must step in to protect interstate commerce. I’m focused on dialing back the harm to Iowa’s agricultural economy and the potential for driving pork producers out of business.

The egg-headed policies from California should not interfere with the free market and impose mandates on how Iowa producers run their farming operations to deliver high-quality, affordable food to the American people. California voters unwittingly approved a pig in a poke with Proposition 12. The bottom line is pretty simple. If left in place, it will drive up food prices at the grocery store and make grilling season, breakfast bacon and holiday ham more expensive for all Americans.