A decade after 63 percent of California voters approved standards for pens and cages for farm animals, nearly that proportion of the state’s electorate opted for Proposition 12, according to preliminary results.
Prop. 12 brings the specificity on minimum space per calf for veal, breeding pigs and egg-laying poultry that Prop. 2 didn’t, and it bans the sale of noncompliant products. Starting in 2020, each calf raised for veal must have 43 square feet of floor space, and hens (chickens and other fowl) would have to be raised with at least 1 square foot of space. Two years later, rules for sows and their piglets would kick in, providing at least 24 square feet, and hens would have to be raised cage-free indoors or outside, based on United Egg Producers 2017 guidelines.
State agriculture and public health regulators would enforce rules promulgated from Prop. 12. Violations would be misdemeanors with fines of up to $1,000.
“I think ultimately, Prop. 2, which was put into place several years ago, met the expectations of most organizations as far as animal husbandry goes,” said Tawny Tesconi, executive director, Sonoma County Farm Bureau. “So with Prop. 12 coming right on its heels, it’s only going to make it harder for local foods to be grown in California, especially when you think about the poultry commodity.”
Prop. 2 took effect in 2015, and farming groups argued that the rules were vague, based on animal behavior. The California Department of Food and Agriculture issued regulations in 2013 requiring eggs sold in the state come from hens confined to no less than 0.81 square feet each.
“For people who are more financially disadvantaged in California, it’s going to make it harder for them to afford eggs and chicken, as well as more locally grown food,” Tesconi said.
At Dolcini Red Hill Ranch in Marin County, egg-laying hens have been raised cage-free and free-range, but it comes at a high cost.
“It costs me about $5 a dozen to produce eggs in the way that I feel is best for the chickens, and it’s very expensive,” said owner Kitty Dolcini. “I do feel for the farmers that have invested from Prop. 2 to make modifications in their cages, and those are big egg producers. I prefer the way I do it, but I recognize that there’s lots of people buying eggs for $3 or $4 dollars a dozen — that I just can’t do.”
Poultry products, including meat and eggs for consumption, accounted for $17.8 million in sales from Marin County farms last year, making up roughly half of the county’s livestock meat production for 2017, according to the crop report. Eggs, egg byproducts amounted to $39.7 million in sales last year in Sonoma County, where egg figures are separate from those for poultry meat.
Sad about the Prop. 12 result but not surprised is Petaluma resident Shelina Moreda, a professional motorcycle racer, model and from the fifth generation of the dairy family behind Moreda Family Farms in Sonoma County. She took to the Instagram social media platform to refute a pro-Prop. 12 television commercial that showed a calf chained up.
“I wish people would talk to and listen to farmers,” Moreda wrote Wednesday. “I wish that farmers would have more of a voice to show the world what actually happens, because it’s a real disservice to the small farmer when things become a law that are written and promoted by people who want farming banned completely.”