TAYLOR, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Wisconsin hog farmers are facing a challenge from the west. Hog farmer, Steve Okonek of Taylor in Jackson County, explains, “One challenge that’s on the horizon and we really don’t know what it’s going to do overall to the industry is California’s Proposition 12. So, what this is, is a law passed in California that says pigs raised have to be raised under certain conditions. So many square feet per pig, particularly with the sows, the mama sows.”

The law goes into effect January 1st, 2024. Okonek says, “Barns have to be remodeled. Barns have to be built bigger to accommodate that square footage in the new law because California consumes about 15% of the pork that we produce here in the United States.”

Some Wisconsin Pork Producers will potentially need to change how they are currently raising pigs. Okonek explains, “It’s going to decrease the supply of pork, and it’s an unscientific dictation of how we produce pork. Because of this law, Proposition 12, no science was used to pass this law. It was strictly emotion by activist groups. So, it’s going to have a negative impact on consumers and a negative impact on farmers.”

Okonek raises 3-week-old pigs until they are five to 6 months of age. He says, “This is about as humane as we can get because if anybody has ever slept on the ground themselves, they know it’s not a good way to sleep. That’s the same for our pigs here. They’re kept warm and comfortable with feed and water.”

Two times in a year he receives new pigs and takes pride in raising them with feed that may not be able to be used otherwise. Okonek says, “We can take grains that people would not want to eat like distiller’s grains, which is left over from the ethanol industry.”

Overall, Okonek enjoys being a pork producer while living in a rural community and raising a family, “We enjoy producing pork for people to consume. We enjoy producing food for people. That’s what we do. We feed people here.”