Animal Agriculture Under Attack

December 17, 2008

December 17, 2008

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the Renewable Fuels Association, Wal-Mart Stores, Monsanto, and John Deere. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today's commentary--

The agriculture industry is under assault and I'm not sure we realize it. We have seen new restrictions imposed on animal agriculture in a series of states from Florida to Arizona and, now, California. The California ballot initiative passed last month by a wide margin -62-38. Crates for sows and cages for chickens will be banned. It is an emotional appeal with the animal rights advocates saying the confinement practices are cruel.

We are on the defensive. The Humane Society is leading the charge but they are not alone. I would not be surprised if the new Congress might not try to pass similar standards for the nation.

You may ask -- well, so what? What's the big deal?

In the first place, I think commercial farmers treat their animals with tender loving care. We have no choice if we expect to get efficient gains and maximum production. An unhappy chicken or pig will not do well.

Chickens running around pecking in their own manure can risk contamination and spread of disease. I know that's how we did it when I was a kid feeding chickens and gathering the eggs. Let's face it, we weren't very efficient then.

We hear all the complaints about rising food prices. Well, free range chicken eggs cost about 20 cents each; conventionally produced eggs 10 cents. The cost of eggs in California is going to double. However, it probably won't, at least for now, because the egg production business will just move to another state where they don't have such silly restrictions.

Hog crates are another issue. Smithfield Foods has already said they intend to phase out the use of crates.

Horse slaughter and processing has already been stopped in the U.S. We need to realize that the farming industry is under attack. A lot of people that don't know much about farming and ranching want to tell us how to do our work.

The whole ag industry from farm to market should be aware of the risks and work closer together to protect our collective interests.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.