In 2008 I spent a great deal of time in California because of the looming vote in what was called Proposition 2. For quick refresher, Prop 2 was about eliminating crates in veal and pork production but more widely recognized for increasing the required space for laying hens.
The sentiment put forth by the animal rights groups was that if they could just get these animals more space, then they would be happy and leave producers alone.
Election Day 2018 brought the follow up regulation to Prop 2, which was called Proposition 12. Prop 12 is the most egregious of all animal laws yet to pass. Yes, Prop 12 passed with more than 61 percent of voters saying they want all animals completely cage-free by 2022. This law does not just apply to California producers; proponents made sure the language includes anyone selling veal, pork or eggs into the state of California.
This proposition, as passed, states that by 2020 all housed chickens must be given a full foot of floor space and veal calves must be provided 43 feet of space per head. Pregnant sows must be given 24 feet per animal by 2022 and in that same year all chickens must then be completely free range. While there is no mention of beef or dairy in any of these regulations, that will be the next targets.
What we have been doing to prevent these ill-guided maneuvers is clearly not working in the farming community. We have always talked about how important it is for us to be allowed to provide the care we see fit as true stockmen. We’ve tried to make them understand that we need to keep the animals in the least amount of stress possible. We attempted to convince them that if we don’t work for the animals, then they will not work for us.
That is the same old tired rhetoric we have been sharing for nearly 20 years now and incrementally. We are losing the farm. Don’t get me wrong; we should be making these decisions if for no other reason than because we live in a country where we champion our property rights. However, if we truly had the property rights our founders had tried to provide for us, then I could house them, feed them and kill them as I wish. The grim reality is that we are far from being able to actually exercise that kind of control of our property.
As farmers and ranchers, we are the most resilient group of people this country has ever seen. We always seem to find a way to clear all the hurdles that are put in front of us no matter how unnecessary they truly are. However, the most forgotten segment of our society—the hungry and the poverty-stricken consumers—will not fare so well once these rules go into effect.
I can say, with a great deal of confidence, that food prices in the Golden State will spike up again just as egg prices doubled after Prop 2 went into effect. Once again, the California red-carpet elite voted to increase food prices at a time when California has the nation’s highest rate of poverty at 20.6 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure. With a child food insecurity rate of 20.7 percent, one in five children in California may go to bed hungry each night.
I just spoke at the West Central States Wool Growers meeting in Casper, Wyoming. It was a great meeting of nearly 300 sheep producers, and when I finished one gentleman approached me with a story. Regan Smith shared his memory of a crusty, old cuss he knew who once said, “Folks will just keep digging their own holes until they are standing in the soup line.”
The soup line in California, as well as the rest of the country, certainly looks to get a lot longer with all these new regulations. Sadly the people creating the problem have no idea that there is even a line.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.LoosTales.com, or email Trent at [email protected].