THIS MAY be the century of legislated animal care for U.S. livestock producers. Several states have passed ballot initiatives over the last eight years specifically targeting animal housing. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed HB 5127 into law in 2009 giving certain farm animals more flexibility in housing and thus helping to avoid a threatened ballot initiative by the Humane Society of the United States. This was considered a victory of sorts for livestock producers because they thought a ballot initiative would result in potentially more damaging regulation to the livestock industry.

In effect, the Michigan law phases out veal crates for calves within three years, and battery cages for laying hens and certain uses of gestation crates for breeding sows within 10 years of the law's passage. California voters passed Proposition 2 by a 63 to 37% margin in 2008 requiring that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant sows be confined only in ways that allow the animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely for the majority of the day. Similar measures have been passed in Florida, Arizona, Oregon and Colorado.

Once animal agriculture starts down the path of legislated animal welfare regulations, the animal activist agenda will gather speed because the groups have money and momentum. If this trend continues, voters and consumers who probably have never been in the barn may be telling farmers more about what they can and cannot do with their own animals. — Lora Berg