California chicken farmers may move to Idaho and other states to continue "cruel confinement" practices

The Wall Street Journal is out with an important article on the repercussions of new laws in California that prohibit "cruel confinement" of farm animals. Here's the key excerpt:

The movement comes after California voters in November 2008 passed aballot initiative called Proposition 2 designed to prevent "cruel confinement" of farm animals in cramped conditions, like small "battery cages" for egg-laying chickens, or "gestation crates" for pregnant pigs.

Such measures have grown more popular nationwide as the Humane Society of the United States and other groups have pushed to raise awareness of how animals are treated in the food-production system. Since 2002, similar provisions have passed in Florida, Arizona, Oregon and Colorado.

I was intrigued by this comment in the article:

On Sunday, Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, one of the nation's largest farm groups, implored farmers at an annual convention in Seattle to "aggressively respond to extremists who want to drag agriculture back to the day of 40 acres and a mule."

It's interesting to hear him frame the debate in that way, as if those who are concerned with animal farming practices are extremists or that the goal is to go back to 40 acres and a mule. Those on the food activist side are just as prone to making such straw man arguments, as if big ag folks are evil exploiters of mother earth. More constructive engagement would be helpful.

Toward that end I'll be going to the Spokane Ag Bureau on Friday and Ag Expo in a couple of weeks. One of my good friends is member of the Bureau and is actually president of this year's Expo. I hope to offer some conventional farmers' perspectives on local/slow food.

Also, remember that Michael Pollan is speaking at WSU tonight, January 13 at 7pm. That should be some constructive engagement.