It’s very concerning when people vote on issues when they don’t understand the ramifications. There is no clearer example than the approved California ballot initiative–Proposition 12. Proposition 12 addresses farm animal housing standards. The problem? Unfortunately, Californians didn’t have enough knowledge to make a good, educated decision. The only way our type of government works properly is if we have an educated electorate.
Let’s dig into this a bit deeper into the requirements of Proposition 12:
California Proposition 12 Specifics
California’s Proposition 12 was a ballot initiative that asked it’s voters to determine livestock animal standards:
ESTABLISHES NEW STANDARDS FOR CONFINEMENT OF SPECIFIED FARM ANIMALS; BANS SALE OF NONCOMPLYING PRODUCTS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.
Definition of the proposition: Establishes minimum requirements for confining certain farm animals. Prohibits sales of meat and egg products from animals confined in a noncomplying manner.
The proposition was asking its voters to determine how chickens, pigs, and dairy calves should be housed. But my question is, do the citizens of California have enough knowledge to vote on how livestock animals should be housed? Evidently, they feel they do.
So let’s be honest, how many Californian’s really studied this proposition? At first glance after reading the proposition, why wouldn’t you vote for this? It sounds like a good thing. Who wants farm animals confined in noncomplying manners? No one, right? It’s definitely a feel-good kind of vote. But what ended up happening is all Californians were given the title of “animal care experts.”
But . . .
Who are the animal care experts?
Are Californians the animal care experts? Do they really know how to care for chickens, pigs, and cows? Or are farmers the animal care experts?
And I will take this one step further, why was this on the ballot?
This would be no different than having each of us vote on specific medical procedures surgeons use. Do I have enough medical knowledge that I can tell a surgeon on what medical procedure they should use? I think not. I would NEVER want to vote on an issue like that. I acknowledge I don’t have the knowledge and I am not the expert. But for some reason, California thinks they are animal care experts.
So how does Proposition 12 affect pig farmers?
Part of the ballot initiative talks about a “noncomplying manner.” For pigs, this specifically talks about the use of gestation stalls. You can read about why pig farmers use gestation stalls. The bottom line is there is NO perfect sow housing. None. There are advantages and disadvantages of both gestation stalls and open pen housing or loose sow housing. We should leave the decision on animal housing to those who know best. Farmers know what is best for their animals. Pig farming success is more dependent on how the pigs are managed or cared for and not how they are housed. The bottom line – we should not be micromanaging farmers. Let’s leave animal care decisions to the farmers and their veterinarians.
Farming is not easy and should not be left to a yes or no vote at the ballot booth.
Proposition 12 is making its way through the court system. The concern is Proposition 12 impedes the U.S. interstate commerce clause. Can one state tell another state how to produce its food? That is what the courts will decide. I, for one, certainly hope the courts will decide Proposition 12 goes against state’s rights and therefore, unconsitutional.
Some people may think – why not change the pig housing so it matches what California is dictating? Most people don’t realize the significant cost associated with changing housing methods, especially when it doesn’t mean better care of the animals. Pig farmers do not want to go backward in animal care by being forced into changing their animal care methods. They don’t want their hands tied based on someone who only has an ideological view of farming.
And if pig farmers have to comply with California’s arrogance ways, the cost of food could go up significantly and there may be farmers that will just leave their profession. We as a nation, need to be really careful about what we are doing. It really comes down to, Who Do You Want to Raise Your Bacon?
So What Is The Solution?
Probably one of the most frustrating aspects to farming right now is the disconnect consumers have with those who grow and raise their food. That is precisely why I blog and advocate for agriculture. It’s imperative that we make a concerted effort into increasing ag literacy.
More related posts:
Eric Wessels says
Californians voted for specific requirements if you want to sell them pork. You don’t have to sell pork in California. I agree we need ag based education. Too many producers do not seem to know what they are doing.
I’m curious as to why you think producers don’t seem to know what they are doing.
Wanda Patsche says
Why do you think I said that?
Eric Wessels says
The three CAFO within 1.5 mi of my house, all built in the last 3 years, 10 years after we built our home, spread their waste on land which is the headwaters of a primary water source in central Iowa. There are no provisions to mitigate water contamination in fact one field receiving waste has a surface collector that feeds directly into a stream. That producer also does corn on corn on corn. Every fall his fields are black from tillage. These are the large producers that I am familiar with. When you want to get angry with the misinformed start with these uninformed producers. We know the value in notill. We know the value of cover crops. We know the value in buffer strips and wetlands to filter runoff. When I say we need to educate around again, I mean these poor producers that ignore knowledge to the detriment of everyone else. I work every day with people who want to do the right thing. I help them find funding when available and work at providing conservation knowledge to those who seek it. Iowa is full of selfish greedy shitty producers. That’s what I mean
Wanda Patsche says
I hear what you are saying but it really doesn’t have anything to do with Proposition 12. I know in Minnesota, we have much stricter regulations. We are required to have buffers, etc. Hopefully with more promotion and information available, farmers will start to change some of their farming methods.
Eric Wessels says
You’re correct. My last comment was not about Prop 12. Your original article also mentioned ag education, I made a comment and I was asked to clarify. As for Prop 12, It does not tell you how to run your production. It does however set up requirements to sell products in the state of California. This is similar to emission requirements on cars. It is one way to alter the market for the better.
Wanda Patsche says
And that is where I disagree. It is a way to alter the market, but definitely not for the better. Talk about an unnecessary headache for our meat distribution. They have to segregate the meat dependent on housing methods. And what do the veterinarians say? They say both methods of housing are acceptable. What is more important is how the animals are cared for in these barns. Do consumers know this? Do they care?
And the hogs that go to market? They are not raised in stalls, so sow housing has absolutely no basis on the meat quality. None of the market hogs are raised in stalls.
Eric Wessels says
It is a way to alter the market similar to Walmart and Costco, and other big buyers who have altered the way eggs are produced. As for distribution, it isn’t anymore difficult than the current distribution. In construction there are projects I specify specific products and the market is full of producers that want to meet that demand. It will be the same in your industry. You may not sell in California. Or maybe you will have to contract with Tyson instead of Smithfield because they are willing to forego the California market.
Consumers can tell the difference between a barn and a confinement. I’m sure we can each find a veterinarian to say which housing method is better. But if consumers concerns about animal welfare, specifically gestation crate use, helps eliminate or leads to greater regulation of confinements and waste management, that’s the camp I’m in.
I buy my pork from a producer that field raises the pigs. Why? Because his farm isn’t an environmental disaster and it tastes better. I know I’m supporting a small businessman in Iowa. I don’t wish economic hardship on anyone, but I also don’t want someone to profit because he cuts corners and every other taxpayer has to pay the cost to fix the mess.
Pacelli lenehan says
Hi Wanda usually the people that make the laws in farming wouldn’t know a pig if it grunted at them anyway thanks for all the news during the year and May I wish you and yours a very very happy Christmas see you in Nebraska in September all going well best wishes from pat in Ireland