California consumers are feeling the impacts of higher prices on a popular protein source—pork—in our grocery stores, food trucks, and restaurant menus. 

Many had warned about this. Now, Congress can fix it. Let me explain.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a misguided California law (Proposition 12) that critics had warned would raise food prices nationwide. Congress is considering legislation that would correct this mistake and help reduce food prices for Latinos like me and other ethnic Americans. It is about time.

A product of California’s initiative system, Prop 12 banned the sale of pork raised on out-of-state farms that doesn’t comply with California’s rules.  As every grocery shopper knows, much higher pork prices than general food inflation are here. They include two nasty surprises. 

The first surprise was the size of the hikes themselves. Throughout the state, they are much bigger than the rate of general inflation. A recent study from the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics at the University of California registered a 16% increase in the cost of bacon, a 17% increase in the price of pork ribs, and a 41% increase in pork loin. No one anticipated price increases close to those numbers.

The second surprise was who pays the most. Lost in all the talk among economists and lawyers who dominate these kinds of issues was that the largest consumers of pork are three of our nation’s most historically discriminated against populations – Latino, Asian and Pacific Islanders, and Black communities.

As a Latino, I have long enjoyed the traditional staple of pork carnitas with my family. They used to cost $1 or a $1.50. Now, they are closer to $3 or $4 —making them less of a staple and more of a luxury meal for many, which was the intent of those driving Prop 12. The real purpose of the initiative is to end meat consumption throughout the nation. 

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That is why they deliberately make products such as pork unaffordable for the average consumer, which is hitting some communities harder than others with the Latino, Black, and Asian and Pacific Islander among the communities that enjoy pork as an everyday staple. 

A University of California study noted the main factor driving California’s pork price spike is Prop 12, which fully hit the beginning of this year. The cost increases that first appeared in the Golden State won’t be limited to its borders. The food production supply chain is complex, and what happens in the nation’s largest state economy impacts everywhere else.

Something’s got to give. According to a recent CNBC poll, nearly two out of three Americans live paycheck to paycheck in today's struggling economy. Too often, those struggling to make ends meet are hit the hardest when food prices surge. 

This is why the farm bill now before Congress includes a provision that tries to stop some of this nonsense and eliminate outside forces from raising the price of food. Ordinary pig farmers need that law enacted to ensure they can continue providing a nutritious, affordable, and delicious protein staple that’s a part of so many family diets. On behalf of the Food Equity Alliance, we’re asking Congress to act quickly. 

From humble origins as the son of Mexican immigrants, Ruben Guerra has risen through the ranks to become one of the most active and vocal advocates for Latino business owners on the national platform. As chairman of the Latin Business Association, one of the nation’s leading Hispanic business trade groups, he travels throughout the U.S. and internationally coordinating trade packs and championing the cause of Hispanic entrepreneurs.