January 26, 2023

ERS releases report on state farm animal policies

ERS releases report on state farm animal policies 

By: Sydney Sheffield 

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Economic Research Service (ERS) has published the State Policies for Farm Animal Welfare in Production Practices of U.S. Livestock and Poultry Industries: An Overview report. The ERS report describes the current state of farm animal policies, the extent of their implementation and geographic coverage, and the legal environment and challenges these policies have faced. Since 2002, 14 states have passed and implemented legislation that directly impacts livestock production practices in America. These policies have focused on confinement practices in the pork, veal, and egg industries, often restricting production practices or sales of noncompliant animal products.

The report was generated by compiling state farm animal welfare policies enacted since 2002 and mapped from several sources, including State legislative libraries and repositories, American Veterinary Medical Association reports, and local, national, and stakeholder news sources. ERS also collected case documents and proposed legislation to describe the legal and legislative response to State policies. 

The extent of State policy coverage was examined, using average State operation and inventory data from 2002 to 2021 from USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service to construct descriptive statistics and visual representations. Additional market impacts were assessed using the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census data on State exports, imports, and population, as well as USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service data on cage-free egg production.

According to the study, most national production in animal agricultural industries occurs outside of the States enacting animal welfare legislation. However, retail sales restriction policies apply to all products sold within a State, including those imported from States without similar production laws. For example, in the United States (U.S.), 11 states have passed bans on the use of veal crates or gestation crates for sows and 10 states have enacted policies that prohibit the confinement of hens beyond a minimum space requirement or the use of cages in poultry and egg production. 

Because of these bans and policies, by 2026, gestation crate bans will directly cover over 7% of the U.S. breeding sow herd but nearly 18% of breeding operations. Veal crate bans will cover over 13% of U.S. operations by the end of 2022. Additionally, by 2026, 17% of U.S. egg-laying operations will be covered by these restrictions, an increase from approximately 3% of operations in 2021. Sales bans on eggs produced in non-compliant operations will reach nearly 25% of the U.S. population by 2026.

The report acknowledged that international trade is affected by these policies. For example, states with bans on confined or caged egg production on average account for over 41% of U.S. shell egg exports. It is also worth noting that animal welfare issues are also becoming provisions of interest in some trade agreements.

Check out the full report here