COLUMBUS, Ohio — Pregnant pigs, veal calves and egg-laying hens are at the center of a California rule that may have lasting implications for Ohio farmers.
Proposition 12 was passed by California voters in 2018. It "prohibts confining farm animals (egg-laying hens, veal calves and breeding pigs) in a cruel manner and prohibits the sale of products (eggs, veal meat and pork meat) from farm animals confined in a cruel manner into California commerce," according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
"It's one of those things that sound innocent on surface, but then when you dig into the details, it gets a little more pernicious" agriculture expert Andy Vance said. "The state wanted to set some minimum standards for the size of enclosures, the minimum space that those food animals you mentioned had in terms of housing."
The rule is being rolled out in a two-phased approach.
The first phase required egg-laying hens to be housed with a minimum of 144 square inches per hen. It also required calves raised for veal to be housed with a minimum of 43 square feet per calf. That requirment went into effect Jan. 1, 2020.
The second requirement will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2022. It requires egg-laying hens to be housed cage-free and breeding pigs to be raised with 24 square feet per pig.
"The big issue is that it is one state telling the entire domestic food chain how they have to produce food and that is really problematic," Vance said.
Vance also explained why many farm groups are against Proposition 12.
"When you have this very broad national food system, when one state takes it upon itself to implement a set of regulations and policies that change that entire food system, it presents a lot of problems. Specific to farmers, it's going to present a lot of cost if they have to change their entire operation just to meet this one state's requirements and we're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars in each sector of that food production system," he said.
Meanwhile, Vance discussed the argument being presented by those in favor of Proposition 12.
"Supporters are really clear that it is all about the animals," he said. "The suporters say we are not giving livestock enough room in these barns, particularly in the swine and poultry spaces and we need to do better at that. It's one of those things where the devil is really in the details moreso than farmers are somehow opposed to giving animals more space. That's not the issue. It's what are the big picutre effects for the industry."
Proposition 12 is being challenged in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Each week, Ringwalt and Vance discuss a topic of importance within agriculture.