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All eyes on Sonoma

Prairie Post: Activists look to ban livestock production in California county.

Kevin Schulz

December 8, 2023

2 Min Read
 Piglets roaming around in a pen
THESE LITTLE PIGGIES: If Sonoma County, Calif, animal rights activists have their way, animal agriculture will be banned in that county. Those involved in the livestock industries nationwide need to pay attention, as the same movement could hit closer to home. Kevin Schulz

That will never happen here!

Not surprising, but activists in a California county are attempting to eliminate and prohibit animal agriculture from within the county.

Though located in California’s wine country, Sonoma County is home to dairy and poultry farms, and an animal rights group reportedly wishes to bring an end to those operations. At last report, the group is a mere 2,000 signatures short of getting an initiative called “Prohibition on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations” on a ballot in front of voters in 2024.

When California voters approved Proposition 12, which dictates how hogs and poultry are raised across the country if the end product is to be sold in the Golden State, I argued that those who pushed the measure on the ballot were masking their “concern” for animal welfare as a step to ban animal agriculture.

This Sonoma County measure rips off that mask.

Livestock producers — actually, anybody in rural Minnesota and elsewhere — need to pay attention to this. A common reaction is to say, “That’s California for ya. That’s 2,000 miles away. That can’t happen here.”

I’d like to agree with that assessment, but it doesn’t seem that long ago that townships in Minnesota were looking for the power to prohibit hog barns from being built. Such scrutinization did turn on the lightbulbs for producers or prospective producers to be more in tune with the concerns of the residents around them.

Most of those concerns were from an environmental argument regarding the alleged or presumed damage such operations would incur on the area’s water and air quality.

The antagonists in the Sonoma County case are out to put livestock producers out of business, plain and simple. The ramifications of such a measure go far beyond the producers and their families. If animal agriculture is to go the way of the Edsel, soon to suffer the same fate would be processing plants, feed companies, veterinarians, pharmaceutical companies and most other allied industries. The trickle-down impact would cripple the rural economy.

Activists come in all shapes, with different motives, and it doesn’t matter if the intent is not wanting livestock “in my backyard” or not wanting animal agriculture to exist at all. The end result would be crushing to the rural economy nationwide.

Even though Sonoma County may be thousands of miles away, like-minded activists may live very close to you right now — maybe in the nearest metro area, maybe in the next town, maybe within your country mile.

Pay attention to what is going on in Sonoma County, and stand with the animal agriculturists there before you suffer the same fate.

Don’t hide behind “That will never happen here!” because it just might, and that movement needs to be stopped before it gets out of the gate.

Comments? Send email to [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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