Thursday, January 8, 2015

SCRAMBLED EGGS AND PUBLIC POLICY

As a policy wonk and a student of public administration, an opinion piece  in the Orange County Register really caught my attention yesterday. 

The headline "Direct Democracy and the price of omelets" by Troy Senik caught my attention. I figured this would be an article suggesting you can not reform the decision making process without breaking a few eggs.

It turns out to be a look at the cost of a 2008 ballot measure called Proposition 2. It passed with 63% of the votes in favor and 37% against. Did voters who overwhelmingly supported an initiative to reduce cruelty to animals  expect to be paying 80% more for their eggs.  

If nothing else, this is an instructive story on the voters getting what they want.

The California Secretary of State's summary from the Official Voter Information Guide of Proposition 2 is as follows:
  • Requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.
  • Exceptions made for transportation, rodeos, fairs, 4-H programs, lawful slaughter, research and veterinary purposes.
  • Provides misdemeanor penalties, including a fine not to exceed $1,000 and/or imprisonment in jail for up to 180 days.
 The law to  ban cramped cages and crates for farm animal,  largely aimed at eradicating battery cages in chicken farming took effect yesterday. “Birds, long afforded a minimum of only 67 square inches a piece, will now need roughly 116 square inches — a more than 70 percent increase — if eggs are to be sold in the state,” reported The Washington Post.

The law improved conditions for chickens but the price of raising chickens has jumped dramatically. Californians now pay more for eggs than anywhere else in the United States - the price of eggs has climbed by as much as 50 percent to 80 percent

Since California is the country’s largest consumer market — and an out-of-state importer — of eggs, the policy impacts  egg producers and consumers beyond California. all eggs being sold in California must “come from hens able to stand up, fully extend their limbs, lie down and spread their wings without touching each other or the sides of their enclosure,” Chad Gregory, CEO of the United Egg Producers, told Bloomberg.

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