Ag leader: Left unchecked, Prop 12 is a ‘slippery slope’ to a ‘patchwork’ of ‘ever-changing’ state laws

While the implementation date for California’s Prop 12 was pushed back six months, leaders in Ag states like Iowa are calling on Congress to act.

pig on a farm

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig says while the six-month delay in the implementation of California’s Prop 12 regulations is helpful for the livestock industry to make adjustments and meet the requirements — the window is also very telling.

“It gives us that kind of six-month window — but that certainly is an indication of the practical reality, right? The challenge of actually complying with this from the producer’s side,” Naig said. “So, it’s good, I guess, that you would delay that and try to ease into that transition.”

However, Naig fears the landmark state legislation could further hurt the pork industry as other states consider creating their own versions of similar legislation.

“When I speak with groups now, you can almost watch people sort of click through this like, ‘Well, it’s pork today. Gosh, what could it be tomorrow? And will other states do this?,’” Naig said. “Yes, I think we should expect that they would, and it won’t just be around food. So, again, this decision opened the door for all manner of restrictions that can be placed on other states, producers of all kinds in other states, just because a state can use its market power, and that’s wrong. That’s something foundational to market access. I’m not just talking about food here.”

Naig agrees farmers and ranchers have a right to be concerned about the trend forming around Prop 12, which, he believes, is a “slippery slope” that should give Congress the boost it needs to take action.

“I do think that that should heighten the awareness and certainly should compel Congress to try to do something here,” Naig continued. “I don’t know if that can fit into a Farm Bill conversation. Frankly, I think it belongs on its own because it’s important, but I don’t care what vehicle it takes. But I do think that we’ve got to see some balance brought back into this interstate commerce question.”

If left unchecked by lawmakers, he worries we could soon have 50 states with 50 different sets of rules. Just recently, New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill similar to Prop 12.

“If you look at that Supreme Court decision broadly, what it says is—as long as you impose the same restrictions on the producers or the manufacturers of something in your own state, you can then impose those preferences or those restrictions on folks outside of your state. [...] So, it’s not just pork,” he said.

Naig believes this it would be a huge burden for producers of any agricultural product.

“By the way, this also creates this concept [that producers] are headed for a patchwork of rules and regulations. How would you ever comply with all of them—and they’re ever-changing?” He said. “If each legislative session or each new election cycle, you can put a new ballot initiative up, how in the world could you ever comply? How could you ever secure the capital, the financing that you need, in order to comply? When all you can say is: ‘Hey, I only know that I’m going to be compliant until they change the law next election or next time the legislature is in session.’ From a practical reality, it’s just very, very difficult.”

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