A federal judge in Iowa has turned aside hog producers’ latest attempt to block California from enforcing its animal welfare requirements on pork sold in the state.

U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams ruled that the producers failed to prove that their lawsuit should be heard in Iowa or that California voters intended to harm Iowa’s pork producers when they voted for Proposition 12, the 2018 initiative that will require sows to be given at least 24 square feet of space.

The regulations are set to take effect Jan. 1 and will apply to all pork sold in the state regardless of whether the hogs are raised.

“Proposition 12 applies generally to pork production without regard to the state of origin and the fact that Iowa produces the most pork in the country is merely fortuitous,” Williams said in his ruling dated Monday.

The lawsuit Williams dismissed was filed against California state officials by the Iowa Pork Producers Association and some individual producers in Iowa.

A three-judge panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier ruled against a Prop 12 challenge by the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The regulations also apply to egg-laying hens and calves produced for veal.

“The pork industry is in a sad state: it wastes producer money filing multiple losing lawsuits just to continue its cruel abuse of locking mother pigs in cages barely larger than their own bodies, unable to even turn around,” said Rebecca Cary, senior staff attorney at the Humane Society of the United States

“These are intelligent, social animals who are forced to endure years of suffering and pain. We applaud the many farmers who are treating animals better and are already in compliance with Proposition 12’s modest standards.”

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IPPA had no comment; NPPC spokesman Jim Monroe said the group was still considering its options in the 9th Circuit case.

“We also continue to engage California on the development of final regulations. Our formal comments on proposed regulations included a request to delay implementation of Prop 12 for at least two years,” Monroe said.

“The fallout from this flawed law includes higher food prices, less choice and pork industry consolidation as smaller producers struggle with compliance costs,” he said.

According to a recent Rabobank report, only 4% of U.S. sow operations currently comply with the space requirements. Other producers who sell into California will have to either reduce the number of sows or build additional housing. Many sow barns currently provide about 16 to 20 square feet per animal.

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