- Tim Larsen/State of New JerseyGov. Chris Christie is getting pressure from both opponents and proponents of a bill to ban gestation crates in New Jersey.
A bill to outlaw the use of gestation crates in New Jersey could have national implications if Gov. Chris Christie chooses to sign it into law.
Christie has until early December to decide whether to sign a bill that would ban hog farmers in the state from using gestation crates. The bill has the overwhelming support of Republican and Democrat state lawmakers in New Jersey, which only has about 300 hog operations that don’t regularly use crates.
If the bill is signed into law, it would not greatly impact the U.S. pork industry, it could have a national impact on the political scene. Christie is a potential Republican presidential candidate for the 2016 elections, and his decision is being watched closely by voters in Iowa, the largest pork producing state in the nation and the home of 2016’s first-in-the nation presidential caucuses.
Christie has received pressure from Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, whose relationship he has carefully cultivated and who could prove a crucial ally in the early-voting state if Christie decides to run. Branstad, a Republican who won easy re-election November 4, is ardently opposed to the restrictions and has called Christie to urge him to reject the bill when an earlier version landed on his desk last year.
“I called him to tell him how bad I thought it would be and how the people that are involved in pork production, that really understand this, feel this would be very bad,” said Branstad, who added that the crates provide protection to baby pigs that could be crushed by older pigs.
Economists have estimated that new subsidies from the U.S. government’s five-year farm bill could be as high as $10 billion.
Some economists have estimated that new subsidies from the U.S. government’s five-year farm bill could be as high as $10 billion. That would be more than 10 times the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) working estimate and more than double the forecast by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
If farmers’ revenues fail to meet benchmarks tied to long-term price and production averages, they could receive payouts. The USDA and CBO made their estimates before crop prices fell on record harvest expectations.
The farm bill’s new programs were meant to cost taxpayers less by replacing a nearly two-decade-old scheme of direct cash payments to farmers, which were about $5 billion per year and were made regardless of need.
Due to ample supplies, corn prices have fallen well below the long-term average price used as a benchmark for one of the farm bill’s programs. This year’s bumper harvest may not be large enough to compensate for the price falls, and revenues for some farmers could be low enough to trigger payments.
Beginning November 17, farmers were able to start signing up for the programs. Most participants will be the farm families who own and operate about 98 percent of all U.S. farms.