The chickens have come home to roost.
California voters in 2008 decided chickens were not being treated inhumanely.
The Humane Society of the United States convinced 63 percent of the voters to support a law that essentially doubles the size allowed chickens in cages. It requires 60 square feet with a maximum of 60 chickens or one bird per square foot. The law went into effect Jan. 1.
The goal essentially was to allow birds room to lie down and flap their wings.
For good measure - and to get more voters on their side - they added calves raised for veal as well as pregnant pigs. It was a no brainer. Calves and pigs conjure up more sympathy. Besides, farmers already had eliminated concerns that pregnant pigs didn't have enough room and veal production was slowly fading away in California. Chickens aren't exactly cuddly animals. Nor are they covered by the Humane Slaughter Act like cattle and horses.
As added measure to make sure California egg producers wouldn't be driven out of business, the legislature in 2010 required any eggs sold in California from out of state had to be produced in cages that were as roomy as ones Proposition 2 dictated.
So now that Proposition 2 has been the law for 27 days, how do you like it so far?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports the cost of a dozen jumbo eggs sold in California is now at $3.16. That's almost double from a year ago when it was $1.18 a dozen.
The reason is simple. It is costing egg producers $40 per chicken to comply with the new cage rule. It comes to $2 million for a small operation involving 50,000 chickens. A number of out-of-state producers in places such as Iowa and Ohio that have real winters in order to comply have also had to add heating. More space means chickens aren't staying warm simply from body heat.
Proponents of Proposition 2 argued that the exiting bird cages didn't lead to productive chickens and that it made them unhealthy. Yet egg production per bird skyrocketed under what was previously legal in California feeding more people at a lower cost per egg. Also diseased and sick birds are not beneficial to a farmers' bottom line and can also decimate their flocks. That didn't matter as Proposition 2 backers said chickens would be happier and healthier. Larger cages were sold as a Club Med for chickens. In reality it didn't do much to change their lot in this world which is to produce eggs for human consumption.
An average American in one form or another consumes 260 eggs a year. At the current price difference from a year ago that means a typical Californian will be paying $21.23 more a year for eggs. For a family of four that's $84.93 a year.
Now for the zinger. Eggs are the cheapest source of protein. That means the poorest Californians who rely heavily on eggs for protein are being hit the hardest.
The fact the poor are taking it on the chin is nothing new when it comes to the environmental perfection movement.
Those in the environmental perfection movement as opposed to environmental protection backers pursue goals with negligible or questionable returns regardless the cost.
Ethanol is a prime example. Now that it has been proven without a doubt it takes more energy to create ethanol which wipes out the effect of cleaner burning gas we continue to support the madness. After eliminating hefty tax subsidizes that were in place for 30 years in 2012, the government turned around and mandated that fuel blenders use a certain percentage of corn ethanol.
It was even better than subsidies as it forced fuel blenders to buy corn ethanol. Corn prices soared. Corn going for human consumption dropped. The price of foods using corn grain soared.
And who took the biggest hit? Poor people.
High-speed rail is being sold as a way to clean up the air in the San Joaquin Valley. The system - for all practical purposes - will primarily serve Los Angeles Basin to San Francisco Bay Area business travelers.
Not only can't the poor people of the San Joaquin Valley - think farm workers and others - afford to buy an $85 high speed rail ticket but they are subsidizing it.
The greenhouse tax on refineries and distributors that went into effect at the start of this year is expected to cost them $2 billion annually. They plan to pass that cost on to consumers. The Air Resources Board says that could ultimately add anywhere from 40 cents to $1.30 to the price of a gallon of gasoline.
The state is committing almost a third of all that money each year to high speed rail.
So when farm workers or other Valley workers that toil for minimum wages fill up their tanks to reach jobs that are often far flung they can be paying for high speed rail, another project that is dubious when it comes to environmental benefits.
Not only will it require more electricity to power high speed rail, but the cars it does take off the road are traveling at 65 mph between LA and the Bay Area which is a speed at which they burn fuel cleaner. Meanwhile the stop and go traffic in valley cities where light rail doesn't exist will continue to get worse.
The poor obviously don't matter as much as chickens, business travelers, and ethanol investors.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.