Proposition 12: What the industry thinks and how it passed


California bureaucracy has done it once again — after the November elections they have disrupted the agriculture industry. Proposition 12 established minimum space requirements based on square feet for calves raised for veal, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens and ban the sale of veal from calves, pork from breeding pigs, and eggs from hens when the animals are confined to areas below minimum square-feet requirements. After the proposition passed with 62 percent voters in favor, it started to get national attention.  

If this sounds like déjà vu to you, you would be correct. California passed proposition 2 in 2008 with the requirement that farm animals must be able to “turn around freely, lie down, and fully extend their limbs.” This vague legislation also set the requirement for imports from surrounding states, which affected more than just California farmers. Egg prices rose after the proposition passed since the remaining egg farmers had to drastically change their facilities to stay in compliance. According to study from Purdue’s Department of Agricultural Economics, egg prices rose 33 percent and egg-laying hens and eggs produced in California had dropped by 35 percent.

Proposition 12 had many groups in opposition, however, the organizations rarely agree on anything. For example, California Farm Bureau and PETA were both in opposition of prop 12, but for drastically different reasons. PETA thought the proposition didn’t do enough, while Farm Bureau thought the proposition was unnecessary. 

Other groups in conflicting opposition were National Pork Producers Council and the Humane Farming Association. NPPC stated, “NPPC maintains that the initiative violates the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause and that it will be costly for farmers and consumers. The organization is supporting federal legislation that would prohibit states from regulating agricultural production practices outside their borders and is backing lawsuits – now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court – filed by attorneys general from nearly two dozen states against California’s egg sales ban and a 2016 Massachusetts ballot measure that banned the sale of eggs, pork, and veal from animals raised in housing prohibited by the same measure.”

Bradley Miller, President of HFA said, “Proposition 12 has now rendered the term ‘cage free’ utterly meaningless. Rather than the full wingspan requirement of our previous law (Prop 2) which is being deleted, hens will now get a mere one square foot of space per bird. This codifies in California law the cruel guidelines of United Egg Producers — the egg industry trade group that co-wrote Prop 12 with the corrupted Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).”

Miller continued, “The proponents of Prop 12 have now squandered a combined $23 million misleading and manipulating California voters on two phony “cage-free” initiatives. The inescapable reality remains this: If not for the malpractice of HSUS and its tagalongs, California hens would be out of cages at this very moment.”

If so many groups where in opposition on both sides of the agriculture realm, how did this pass? Humane Society of the United States. Just like in 2008, they came from Washington D.C. and brought all of their financial resources to pass this measure in any way possible. HSUS stated, the proposition was supported by “over 100 California family farmers and thousands of volunteers.”

Only 100 farmers supported this? According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, there are 77,500 farmers and ranchers in the state of California. We need to start listening to the farmer, not which group has the most money to push their agenda. 

It is yet to be determined the financial impact on farmers in California, and in surrounding states. Farmers who just finished making changes to their management practices, will once again have to make unnecessary changes to follow a law created by someone behind a desk that doesn’t understand the compassion a farmer has for their livestock. Not only will this cost the farmer, but also the consumer. This is a lose-lose situation for the agriculture industry. 


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