While Arizona voters will decide on Nov. 7 whether Arizona hog farmers must increase the size of sow gestation stalls or face criminal charges and possible jail time, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said during a Nov. 2 visit in Casa Grande, Ariz., that the common size of gestation stalls used across the country provides animals with more protection while maintaining clean food and water.

“I grew up raising hogs on my family’s dairy farm and there are a couple of reasons why you use stalls,” Johanns said. “You feed and water the animal at one end of the stall. If the animal is turned around, you’re going to have problems with the animal urinating in the feed and water. There was a reason that stalls were designed that way. I have experienced it.”

Johanns said his family raised hogs in open pens and gestation stalls, and the stalls worked well. “We were a small sized operation and farrowed a dozen sows at a time. We were not a big enterprise, but there was a reason we had stalls that size,” he said.

The Arizona ballot proposal would mandate increased stall size so sows can fully extend their limbs and turn around. If passed by voters, farmers failing to increase stall size would face up to six months in prison and a $20,000 fine. The activist groups Farm Sanctuary and the Humane Society of the United States spearheaded the effort to place the issue on the Arizona ballot.

The Campaign for Arizona Farmers and Ranchers is fighting mad about the proposal. Chair Jim Klinker said the issue is not about stall size.

“The real issue is about out-of-state animal activists trying to force their anti-meat, pro-vegetarian and pro-vegan lifestyle on every Arizonan,” he said. “Their goal is to knock off small livestock producing states like Arizona which only has one large hog farm and then move to eliminate production in larger livestock-producing states.”

The single, large Arizona hog farm that the proposal would impact is PFFJ (Pigs for Farmer John) Inc., located north of Snowflake, Ariz. The plan would also mandate larger stalls for Arizona raised veal. The state is void of veal production.

Over the last few months, corners of roadway intersections across the state have sported signs denoting “Prop 204 is Hogwash” and “Stop Animal Cruelty.” Television airways have also been a battleground. Voters will decide the issue, right or wrong, on Election Day, Nov. 7.

The CAFR organization includes the Arizona Pork Council, the United Dairymen of Arizona, the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation and the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association. Klinker is the Farm Bureau’s executive secretary.

e-mail: cblake@farmpress.com