Friday, October 06, 2017

Ten Percent More for Humanity?

Modern Farmer has a report by Dan Nosowitz on an analysis of the costs of California's law effectively outlawing caged hens.
As a result, prices of local eggs did indeed increase: there was about a 30 percent spike right at the beginning of the law’s implementation. But that very quickly lessened: prices stabilized after about 22 months at roughly 9 percent higher than their pre-law rates. In all, the study estimates that each household spent about $7.40 per year during that time frame more than they would have had the laws not been passed. (This is a very tricky bit of math given that egg prices weren’t exactly normal during this time thanks to big droughts and avian flu outbreaks.) Now that things have stabilized, that’s much lower; according to USDA figures, prices have settled at a premium of about 15 cents per dozen. For context, during this spike, the average American household spent $6,224.00 per year on food. Yes, people are on a wide variety of budgets, but in the grand scheme of things, this seems insignificant.
 He interviews people who say 10 percent is important, but "insignificant" is where he comes down.

I'll take my usual positions: "it depends" and "it's complicated".

10 percent more for eggs isn't that big a deal, but suppose we apply "humane" rules or laws to all of farming--meaning more pay for migrant workers, better conditions for animals, more diversity in crop farming and the result is 10 percent for food.  (That's probably not a good comparison--most food has been processed in some way but eggs less so.)  Are we ready to approve a 10 percent increase in food stamps?  I think not.  On the other hand, we're ready to approve more than 10 percent increase in the cost of smoking, even though we know smokers tend to have lower incomes. 

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