California in 2020 is scheduled to begin implementing more stringent animal confinement standards for in-state and out-of-state producers who sell certain animal products the state.

The new law was overwhelmingly approved in 2018 by California voters as Proposition 12. It covers breeding pigs, veal calves, and egg-laying hens kept on farms.

California voters first passed Proposition 2 in 2008, giving egg-laying hens in the state enough room to lie down, stand up, fully extend their legs and wings, and turn around without bumping into other hens or the barrier. Prop 2 took effect in 2015. It did not explicitly require that eggs produced for the California market be cage-free.

Veal calves and egg-laying hens can in 2020 be deemed to be confined in a cruel manner if they are housed, respectively, with less than 43 square feet per calf, and less than 144 square inches per hen, which is equivalent to one square foot per hen.

Cruel confinement in 2022 will include any breeding pigs with less than 24 square feet per sow, giving the animals pens that are about 4 feet by 6 feet. And in 2022, the United Egg Producers 2017 housing guidelines for cage-free confinement must be followed.

United Egg Producers cage-free standards include 144 square inches per hen with free to roam and enrichment areas, including scratch area, perches, nest box, and dust bathing.

Farmers found in violation of Prop 12 can be found guilty of a misdemeanor with fines of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.

California, however, is tardy with Prop 20 regulations, which were supposed to be in place by Sept 1 this year. The rules are supposed to cover funding, enforcement, and other issues.

Federal Judge Christina Snyder of the Central District of California last month decided to allow Prop 12 to become law. The Washington D.C. based North American Meat Institute (NAMI) wanted Snyder to issue a preliminary injunction, blocking Prop 12 from becoming law until its constitutionality could be fully tested in federal courts.

NAMI could challenge Snyder’s ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Out of state plaintiffs have so far failed to challenge California’s restrictions to its market based on its animal welfare laws. Challengers that have gone away without success include major egg-producing states.

Food products not produced under the new requirements also cannot be sold in California. Judges have upheld California’s market restrictions for not being discriminatory and not being protectionist because they are equally applied.

Since California’s Prop 12 was embraced by voters in 2018,  the Legislatures in both Oregon and Washington State have passed laws requiring cage-free hen housing by 2024.  Oregon and Washington have passed nearly identical laws during their 2019 legislative sessions.

Eggs produced by caged birds cannot be sold by commercial egg farms in Oregon or Washington State after 2024.  Cages must be removed by the end of 2023 and egg farms will be required to provide facilities that allow hens to exhibit natural behaviors such as scratch areas, perches, nest boxes, and dust bathing areas.

The two states exempt farms with fewer than 3,000 egg-laying hens.

Northwest egg farms say the transition will cost thousands of dollars as they replace old caging systems with new ones.  The industry negotiated over the bills in Oregon and Washington State with the Humane Society of the United States.

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