Farm Groups Discouraged With California’s New Animal Confinement Law

07:20PM Nov 07, 2008
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Farm groups say they are disappointed, discouraged and concerned after California's Proposition 2, or Standards for Confining Farm Animals, passed by a 62% majority vote in Tuesday's election.


"The impact of Prop. 2 is pretty obvious,” said Dave Kranz, spokesman for the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF). "Within a few years, it will be impossible to find California eggs in stores.”


Kranz said very few farmers would be able to stay in business with the new law's demands, which make it impossible for them to compete with other states and nations.


Prop. 2 takes effect in 2015. 


The measure prohibits the confinement "for the majority of any day” of certain farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. It was aimed at cage-egg production as well as sow and veal calf housing systems.


The new law effectively bans conventional egg production in California, which ranks fifth in U.S. egg production. The state has only a small sow-producing sector and virtually no veal production.


Californians for SAFE Food, which opposed Prop. 2, warned that the legislation will not only force the egg industry out of California but also jeopardize food safety, raise consumer prices, and result in the loss of thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and several million dollars annually in state and local tax revenues.


Wake-up call


"We're frustrated, but this should serve to galvanize the beef, dairy, poultry and swine industries to come together to do a better job of defining our operations before the public,” said Michael Marsh, CEO of Western United Dairymen (WUD).  "What are [Prop 2 proponents] going to try to dictate next: calf-raising operations, hoof-trimming? If a cow needs medical treatment, are they going to say she can't be locked up?”


The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) also expressed its disappointment with Prop. 2's passage.


"The result points out the lack of understanding that people who voted for Proposition 2 have of agriculture, and it highlights the need for all of America's farm and ranch families to focus on engaging consumers to communicate their knowledge of and commitment to animal care,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman.


The YES on Prop 2 campaign was run by Californians for Humane Farms, a coalition headed by Farm Sanctuary and the Humane Society of the United States.


"The passage of Prop 2 in the country's largest agricultural state marks a monumental victory for farm animals,” Farm Sanctuary said Tuesday.


Beyond California


CFBF's Kranz said it was no secret that the forces behind Prop. 2 intend to take their agenda to other states. Farm Sanctuary agreed, saying that Prop. 2's passage is just the beginning.


"State legislatures around the country are about to begin their next legislative session – providing animal advocates with an opportunity to educate and advance policy similar to Prop. 2 in their state,” the group said Tuesday.


WUD's Marsh said "calls are being made, groups are being formed” among animal agriculture sectors to develop a strategy and the tools "to be successful the next time around.”


Prop. 2 was opposed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, 30 of the state's leading newspapers and hundreds of statewide organizations.


"The Yes on 2 campaign, backed by one of the nation's richest Washington-D.C.-based special interest and lobbying groups, led an emotionally manipulative, dishonest and often deceptive campaign,” Californians for SAFE Food said Wednesday.


Catherine Merlo is Western editor for Dairy Today. You can reach her at [email protected].