This press release was updated at 2:35 p.m. EST on May 23, 2024.

WASHINGTON—Pig producers, pork distributors and animal advocates decried the House of Representatives’ Farm Bill (the Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024) that will likely be voted out of the Agriculture Committee today. They called the bill a reckless attempt to invalidate state laws including Proposition 12, which set landmark prohibitions on the in-state sale of food products from farm animals locked in cruel and extreme confinement. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law in May 2023.  

Congressional opponents and lobbyists representing a backward-facing segment of the pork industry have been pushing for a so-called “Prop 12 fix”—a measure that is not only unnecessary but problematic for many farmers and producers who have already transitioned away from gestation crates to meet consumer demand. The language in the Farm Bill directly violates the principle of states' rights, infringing on the ability of states to determine their own agriculture and market policies. 

Sector-leading companies like Hormel Foods, Perdue, duBreton, Tyson Foods and Butcher Box have declared with confidence their ability and willingness to meet the demand for crate-free pork produced in accordance with Proposition 12 standards. 

Brent Hershey of Hershey Ag, who raises pigs and supplies to Pennsylvania-based Clemens Group, the fifth-largest fresh pork producer in the U.S., said: “The move to group housing for sows is a success story that has benefitted my business. I saw the direction of market demand and made a significant investment in creating more humane group housing for pigs. Our plan to move to it was a permanent move. Once we made the change, we can’t go back.”  

Other producers like Ron Mardesen of A-Frame Acres in Iowa—who is one of 700 Niman Ranch suppliers—also oppose this federal interference targeting state laws on intensive and inhumane pig confinement. 

Chris Oliviero, Niman Ranch general manager, said: “Niman Ranch has built a successful business model by partnering with high-welfare, crate-free family farmers. Prop 12 doesn’t need a ‘fix’—in fact, the California law has opened up new markets and business opportunities for our company and network of over 500 hog farmers. The EATS Act language would stifle innovation, create marketplace instability and hurt family farmers who are leading the industry.” 

Sara Amundson, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said: “You don’t fix something that’s not broken. These narrow special interests have lost at every stage of legal appeal, most recently at the Supreme Court. Now these sore losers are asking Congress to upend 250 years of state and local authority to regulate the production and sale of agricultural products within a state’s borders. Some producers’ bottom-of-the-barrel standards don’t deserve the protection of the U.S. government. They bet against market and consumer demand and they lost. They shouldn’t be wasting Congress’s time in a vain attempt to hold back market-forward entrepreneurs who have made the transition to more humane and healthier standards." 

There are 15 states, spanning the political spectrum, with laws addressing intensive confinement of farm animals. Eighty percent of American voters—including nearly equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats—support enactment of humane laws like Proposition 12 in their own states. 

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., said: “I am deeply concerned by the attempts to undermine public health, food safety and humane standards in agricultural practices across our country. Agricultural production is typically responsive to local contexts and contingencies, and Congress should not usurp the fundamental rights of the states to establish laws and regulations within their borders. I urge my colleagues to carefully consider the vast and significant implications of including this provision in the final Farm Bill and address the concerns raised regarding public health and animal welfare standards.” 

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said: “Any version of the EATS Act will undercut more than one thousand state and local laws that promote humane agriculture, food safety, and public health, leaving us with a crueler and more dangerous food system. I look forward to Congress rejecting this draconian proposal, as it did with the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills.”

Former Pennsylvania State Republican Rep. Jeff Coleman said: “There’s a real concern that House Republicans may surrender our historic commitment to laws advancing animal welfare and the economic opportunities of free markets. This is one of those areas where states like Pennsylvania know best. Transferring responsibility from state capitols to the U.S. Department of Agriculture defies good sense.” 

Following the Supreme Court decision upholding Proposition 12, pork lobbyists pushed a few members of Congress to incorporate this text into the Farm Bill to invalidate Proposition 12 and similar state laws. A diverse set of more than 5,000 entities have publicly stated opposition to this kind of legislation, including Members of Congress (a bipartisan group of 30 Senators and 193 Representatives), nearly 200 organizations, hundreds of veterinarians and more than 4,000 farms across the country. 

Download images of the immobilizing crates Proposition 12 addresses.

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