Arizona Agriculture's "Eggcellent" Conversation with Hickman's Family Farms' CEO
By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau: As a well-known new California law dealing with animal confinement went into effect on January 1, 2015 -- known simply as Prop 2 --, Hickman’s Family Farms has been in expansion mode. In 2008, California voters passed Proposition 2 by a nearly 64 percent majority. Today its the law of the land.
Many suggest that Prop 2 was the most popular ballot measure in California history. According to a Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey of California voters conducted last month, support for Prop 2 has grown even stronger in recent years. More than eight out of nine Californians believe chickens should be raised cage-free, and more than seven out of eight believe six years was “a reasonable amount of time” for egg producers to come into compliance with Prop 2.
Glenn Hickman suggests farmers will continue to micro-market to several constituencies within their customer base.
And while Arizona has no such law, if an egg producer in Arizona wants to sell eggs in California, the farm must comply.
January 1 has come and gone and the deadline date for implementation of California’s Prop 2 is official. What are the implications of the deadline for 1) the egg industry, and 2) the consumer? Prop 2 has yet to be defined. The voters in the State of California only wanted hens in their state to have an undefined amount of space, but enough to perform certain natural activities like
Subsequent legislation and regulation
Why haven’t egg farmers in California prepared better for this deadline? A lot of various legal challenges were filed, from trying to get better definition to outright reversal of the initiative. During this time, egg farmers in California did not know the potential
As a result of lack of preparation by
What does this mean for egg farmers short- and long-term? Consumers profess to want to know more about their foods’ origin and production practices, whether eggs or eggplant. Most farmers who market directly to retailers know this and offer choices already. This trend will continue to cause farmers to micro-market to several constituencies within their customer base. Egg farmers must consider husbandry practices as a choice that must be offered to consumers.
What does this mean for consumers short- and long-term? The short answer is you get what you pay for. In farming, volume = efficiency= lower cost. Short term, the consumer in California will pay extra. Longer term, farmers farm. As more farmers commit to the new production practices, the price for consumers desiring specialty eggs will reflect costs incurred, not supply constraint.
How has Hickman’s Family Farms prepared for this change? We have been pouring concrete for new barns forever. In one year’s time, we will have doubled our production space in Arizona in order to supply our California customers. We are also addressing the desire for
If this means an egg shortage in some regions of the country, is this more reasons for families with the energy and time-commitment to start their own backyard chicken coops? If a family wants to produce any of their own food, whether from livestock or gardens, for whatever reason — except economics, then they should. However, when producing food from livestock, it should be remembered that the animal needs constant care to flourish, weekends included.
Share your thoughts on AG-oriented initiatives like this that have broader consequences than initially anticipated? Julie, my position has evolved. Folks everywhere say one thing, and do another, especially when effort or cost is involved. Food sourcing is no different. But for every 10 people who say they want “ethically sourced” coffee,
What have I not asked you that you’d like to share? Farmers of all types should be proud of our vocation. When we are working the 7th day, or don’t see our homes in the daylight for weeks on end, it’s a calling, not a job. Yet we still are shy about identifying ourselves with our efforts. All farmers need to continue to publically advocate for our industry and livelihood.
I know that you are tired of me harping on this, but each of
Editor's Note: I never tire of hearing Glenn's insights on agriculture and what consumers demand today in the market. And, I think Glenn has it exactly right about advocating ... we need more of it from our farmers and ranchers.