The president of the Illinois Pork Producers Association says finding a fix for Proposition 12 is a top priority.  Chad Leman, an independent pork producer in central Illinois says the California rule lacks consistency. “It allows for ground pork to come into California that’s not Prop 12 compliant,” he says. “But not fresh muscle cuts. I mean, let’s face it, it comes from the same pig.”

Leman says there is serious concern that multiple states will implement rules that are slightly different, making it a logistical nightmare for producers and processors. “It’s not realistic that we can meet those demands,” he says. “These packing houses are not able to identity preserve multiple different traits within the pigs.”

He tells Brownfield that’s why the pork industry has turned to Congress to help find a solution. “I explained to Senator Durbin in a meeting I had with him this summer when he asked me, where are you willing to give?,” he says.  “I said, well, frankly, I haven’t even been invited to the table. You know, I’ve just been told how we should raise our pigs.”

California consumes 15% of the pork raised in the United States. “They’re huge,” Leman says. “They really matter. And the reason they can do something like Prop 12 is because they have that kind of leverage.”

Leman says California’s Proposition 12 is just one of the issues Illinois producers will address in the upcoming Illinois Pork Producer’s Association annual meeting on January 31, 2024.

Leman operates a wean-to-finish operation and markets around 115,000 pigs annually near Eureka, Illinois.

Proposition 12, was approved by voters in 2018, bans the sale of pork from hogs that don’t meet the state’s arbitrary production standards, even if the pork was raised on farms outside of California. The sow has to be housed with at least 24 square feet of space and is able to turn around freely without touching her enclosure.