Capital Update – For the Week Ending May 19, 2023
In this week’s National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) Friday recap: NPPC testifies on 2023 farm bill priorities, NPPC’s current take on California Proposition 12, and the PIGS Act would impose nationwide ban on individual sow pens. Take a deeper dive below.
NPPC Testifies on Pork Producers’ 2023 Farm Bill Priorities
What happened: Scott Hays, a fifth-generation pork producer from Missouri and president of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), testified before the House Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry as part of its hearing on “A Review of Animal Agriculture Stakeholder Priorities.”
NPPC appreciated the opportunity to advocate and discuss policy priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill – ranging from funding that supports the programs that safeguard the nation’s food supply against threats posed by foreign animal diseases to key initiatives that expand foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products.
What was said: Throughout his testimony, Hays outlined the tough economic challenges for pig farmers with hog prices having moderated significantly since 2022. Current losses are largely due to record-high production costs that have increased by about 50 percent since 2020. On top of that, the industry has faced trade retaliation, supply chain issues, labor shortages and threats from foreign animal disease outbreaks and the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent unfavorable decision on California Proposition 12.
“This is putting a pinch on the pork industry and could drive consolidation at the farm-level, as producers may be forced to exit the industry due to this economic reality,” said Hays. “We are committed to ensuring our consumers have food on the table, our pork producers and family farms are strong, and working with champions to address implications from unnecessary and unscientific measures that restrict producers’ ability to take care of their animals.”
Hays said NPPC is hopeful the 2023 Farm Bill fully funds programs that are vital to ensuring animal health across species.
“The growing threat of foreign animal disease, specifically African swine fever, is of particular concern, and farmers need the tools to prevent and rapidly respond to an outbreak, should one ever occur,” said Hays. “The ‘three-legged stool’ of animal health laid out in the 2018 Farm Bill has set the course for what pork producers need in the upcoming farm bill.”
What policy priorities were discussed:
- A one-year extension of Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting as the industry gathers input from producers in advance of a full reauthorization.
- NPPC opposes the proposed changes under the Packers and Stockyards Act and requested that USDA works with the industry to find meaningful reforms that provide greater transparency for pork producers.
- Absent meaningful trade access, increased funding for the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program through the farm bill are critical to building commercial export markets for U.S. agricultural products.
- Address the ongoing labor shortage by improving and updating the H-2A visa program to grant access to year-round agriculture industries.
Why it’s important: The farm bill authorizes for five years the various agricultural programs, sets farm, conservation, forestry and nutrition policy and provides a safety net for farmers.
While the industry faces many challenges, pig farmers and NPPC’s industry allies are committed to working together to maintain the strength of the U.S. pork industry.
Learn more: Scott Hays’ full testimony can be found here.
Caption: Representative Mark Alford (R-MO) with NPPC President and Missouri pork producer, Scott Hays.
What Others Are Saying About California Proposition 12
What happened: It has been a week since the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) upheld California Proposition 12.
What others are saying:
- “You can expect to pay more for bacon. California’s liberal regulations impact pork producers nationwide.” – Senator Chuck Grassley
- “I’m reintroducing legislation to ensure Iowa farmers can produce high quality products without regulations from California liberals who don’t know a thing about farming.” – Representative Ashley Hinson
- “Proposition 12 represents red tape at its worst, raising costs for our producers and pork prices for our families while inflation destroys our economy.” – Representative Randy Feenstra
- “California passing regulations that have consequences for the rest of the country is sadly nothing new. Congress should look at options to address this problem.” – Senator Ted Budd
- “Iowans don’t give a HAM about California green eggs.” – Senator Joni Ernst
- “U.S producers simply cannot operate in a system where one state can dictate production standards for the entire country.” – Representatives Glenn “GT” Thompson and Tracey Mann
- “Working families deserve abundant, affordable animal proteins like beef and pork.” – Representative John Duarte
- “I stand with pork producers and their freedom to operate free of excessive government regulation from places like California.” – Representative Zach Nunn
Several select stories:
- The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board – “The Supreme Court’s Pork Chops”
- The Washington Post Opinion, George Will– “The Supreme Court’s California Pork Ruling Invites Interstate Economic Warfare”
- Newsweek – “Supreme Court Outrages Republicans With Split Decision Ruling”
- Brownfield Ag News – “National Pork Producers Council Consider Next Steps for Proposition 12”
- Farm Journal’s PORK – “Never Underestimate the Resolve of the American Pork Producer”
- National Hog Farmer – “Proposition 12 Ruling: What it Means and What’s Next”
- RFD-TV – “NPPC on Proposition 12: The Ruling Was Disappointing, but Pork Will Prevail”
Links: NPPC News and Resources and California Proposition 12 Resource Hub
‘PIGS’ Act Would Impose Nationwide Ban on Individual Sow Pens
What happened: Days before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on California Proposition 12, Representative Veronica Escobar (D-TX) reintroduced legislation that would impose a nationwide ban on individual pens for sows. Like California Prop 12, the “Pigs in Gestation Stalls Act of 2023” (H.R. 2939, the PIGS Act) would require sows be given 24 square feet of living space.
Escobar sponsored identical legislation in the last Congress, along with Representative Nancy Mace (R-SC). Mace did not sponsor H.R. 2939. While the bill is backed by several strident animal rights and environmental groups, it is not expected to advance in the Republican-controlled House.
Why it’s important: The estimated costs for converting sow barns to group pens range from $1.9 billion to more than $3.2 billion, according to a University of Minnesota study, which was based on pens that provide 16-18 square feet per sow. NPPC estimates farmers would need to invest about $3,500 per sow, or $7 million for a 2,000-head sow farm to comply with Proposition 12 (or the PIGS Act). Most of the cost likely would get passed onto consumers.
NPPC’s take: NPPC has previously argued that such state overreach will increase pork prices for consumers and drive small farms out of business, leading to further pork industry consolidation. Additionally, NPPC opposes any such legislation as it goes against a producer’s freedom to farm.