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Ohio think tank challenging pork law, but Tri-State farmers say it's important to see where food comes from

Posted at 9:36 PM, Jun 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-21 22:11:32-04

HAMILTON, Ohio — The Biden administration and an Ohio think tank are among critics of a California law being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court. If the law stands, it could lead to higher costs for consumers, according to the filing. Still, family farmers in Butler County see another side.

"I'm sure there's a lot of expenses for (large pork farms) if they want to continue to do it (according to) California's rules," said Becky Jones, co-owner of Hilltop Family Farm. "But we want people to be aware of where your food comes from."

Hilltop Family Farm raises pigs that are hand-fed in a one-acre paddock growing more expensive with inflation, Jones said. It is the kind of cost bigger producers are fighting to slaughter.

The National Pork Producers Council and American Farm Bureau Federation filed a lawsuit against the state of California that will be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court this fall. According to the filing, a proposition approved by California voters in 2018 could cripple the $26 billion a year pork industry.

Proposition 12 requires anyone selling pork in the Golden State to play by California's rules. Pork producers must raise pigs with at least 24 square feet of living space before slaughter. It is designed to minimize animal cruelty and protect customers.

However, NPPC and AFBF claim the law violates the constitutional commerce clause and would force costly changes on out-of-state farms that would eventually be passed to consumers.

Along with 15 state attorney generals and the Biden administration, The Buckeye Institute, an Ohio-based think tank, filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the pork industry.

"California's extraterritorial regulation is incompatible with federalism and is nothing more than an attempt to impost its progressive agenda over the will and judgment of the voters in this country's more sensible 49 other states, including Ohio," Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer of The Buckeye Institute, said in a statement.

"They'll argue that they need to feed the masses, but that's just not how (pigs are) intended to live anyway," Jason Jones, Hilltop Family Farm co-owner, said of large pork production farms.

Along with his wife, Jones feeds their pigs 80 pounds of feed a day, even with prices soaring. They see thin margins too. Their main point of sale, the Northside Farmer's Market, saw a sharp decline in customers buying pork last year. Still, they are determined to meet standards higher than prescribed in California.

"This isn't cheap," said Becky Jones. "But I want for the smaller farmers like us, we want people to be aware of where your food comes from."

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