SACRAMENTO – California voters on Nov. 6 passed Proposition 12, a measure that establishes specific minimum requirements for confinement of laying hens, breeding pigs and veal calves.

By 2020, producers of veal calves will be required to house animals with at least 43 sq. ft. of usable floor space per calf. Beginning in 2022, sows will need a minimum of 24 sq. ft. of usable space per animal and laying hens will be cage-free.

Animal welfare groups opposing the measure said it doesn’t go far enough to protect animals. Industry opponents of the measure said the new law would raise operating costs for farmers and lead to higher prices for consumers for veal, eggs and pork.

In a statement, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) opposed the ballot saying it is unconstitutional for states to regulate outside of their borders. Starting in 2020, the new law would prohibit businesses from selling eggs or raw pork or veal sourced from animals housed in ways that do not meet California’s minimum standards.

“We continue to support federal legislative and judicial solutions that would overturn state laws like this, including the Protect Interstate Commerce Act and a suit brought by attorneys general from 11 states against California and Massachusetts for advancing ballot initiatives that violate the Constitution’s commerce clause,” NPPC said. “A decision on the Supreme Court taking up this case is pending. Not only do these state regulations violate the Constitution, but they are also bad for consumers...especially low-income families. They are not informed by the true food safety and animal care experts — farmers — and will unnecessarily increase food production costs. These costs will be passed on to consumers at the grocery store.”   

The California Farm Bureau Federation also opposed Proposition 12.

“Everyone agrees farm animals should be treated with care,” CFBF President Jamie Johansson said in a statement from October, “and California voters passed Proposition 2 on animal housing 10 years ago. California egg farmers who have managed to stay in business comply with those rules. All Proposition 12 does is allow trial lawyers to file predatory lawsuits against egg farmers, who provide some of the healthiest food on the planet. Proposition 12 would push egg prices higher in the state that already suffers from the nation’s highest poverty rate.”

Proposition 12 builds on Proposition 2 which voters approved in 2008. Proposition 2 mandates cages for egg-laying hens must be large enough for the birds to stand up, lie down and extend their wings.