House subverted will of voters on eggs

Legislature shouldn’t tinker with what 77% approved at ballot box

WHEN VOTERS CAST THEIR DECISION, whether for a candidate or a policy matter, they should be able to feel assured that the winning decision will be honored. In 2016, an astonishing 77 percent of voters made it clear at the ballot box that they wanted egg-laying hens – those raised in Massachusetts as well as the eggs imported into the state – to have ample, cage-free floor space: 1.5 square feet per hen, to be exact.

Unfortunately, the Massachusetts Legislature isn’t honoring the will of the voters. Unbeknownst to many, the Massachusetts House of Representatives last month voted on the state’s budget, which included a provision rolling back the spacing requirements for egg producing chickens to 1 square foot per hen – a reduction of one-third. Without any debate or public discussion, the Legislature disregarded the will of the people and decided about an agricultural issue without asking the farming community or the voters. That is not the type of transparency I seek in my government. I’m outraged, and you should be, too.

Meet the Author

Tom Colyer

Owner, Greewood Hill Farm, Hubbardston
Why would such a decision to be made, you ask? The two farms here in Massachusetts that were impacted by the ballot question already met or have changed their practices to meet the requirements called for by the voters. Our voters made their intentions very clear and that’s who our legislators should be listening to.

There are no national standards to abide by – such matters are determined state by state. And in our case, it was determined by the voters. Massachusetts is a strong-willed state and we pride ourselves on our high standards. I am proud to operate my farm here and I respect my fellow voters. As the Senate now considers the bill and it continues to move through the legislative process, I encourage members of the Legislature to remember the will of the voters and vote no to reducing the spacing requirements for egg-laying hens.

Tom Colyer owns Greenwood Hill Farm in Hubbardston. He was the director from Massachusetts on the American Sheep Industry board of directors for almost 20 years, a member of the American Wool Council for 10 years, and currently is a member of the US Department of Agriculture’s American Lamb Board.