Why Iowa Agriculture Has a Keen Eye on California Vote

BY STEVE DINNEN

We’re all keen in Iowa to learn who will run our government come next Tuesday. If we’re in any way tied to Iowa’s massive agribusiness sector, we’ll also be interested in whether voters in California say yea or nay on Proposition 12. That ballot measure could have far-reaching consequences for Iowa food and livestock producers.

Media in California paint this picture of Proposition 12: It will tighten state laws on cages for farm animals, requiring more space than many large farms currently provide. It will ban the sale of meat in California from calves raised for veal or breeding pigs unless the farms that raise them—anywhere in the country—meet minimum standards for pen size.

Proposition 12 also will ban the sale of eggs from hens that are kept in cages that don’t meet minimum standards. And by 2022 it will require all eggs sold in the state to come from cage-free operations. Iowa, the nation’s largest egg producer, currently accounts for 30 percent of the out-of-state eggs bought in California.

Iowa, Missouri and 11 other states are currently locked in a lawsuit against California over a cage size law it enacted in 2015. If Proposition 12 passes it seems very likely to spur further litigation.

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