State Legislation in 2023—the Good, the Bad and What You Can Do

March 1, 2023

Left: close up on a pig in grassy field with sun shining on it; Right: pigs in a crowded and dirty pigsty

While the federal Farm Bill is a big priority this year, state governments are also focusing on agricultural legislation that can greatly impact farm animals, people, the environment and so much more. 

There will be many opportunities for you to take action to improve the lives of farm animals—all of us can play an important role in the transition to a more humane food system and push back against Big Ag’s greed, corruption and cruelty. We’ve rounded up some state legislation to watch in 2023 and how you can get involved. 

The Good

Investing in and accelerating the transition to a higher-welfare food system is key to building a better world for farm animals. Improving the lives of farm animals requires increased funding for farmers and ranchers who are raising animals in more humane ways and supporting farmers who want to achieve meaningful animal welfare certifications. We are keeping an eye on a bill in Oklahoma that would help farmers transition away from gestation crates—enclosures so small that mother pigs are unable to turn around during their reproductive years—to meet Prop 12 regulations and welfare certification standards. In California, we are leading a coalition of animal, sustainable farming, worker and environmental organizations to create a Resilient Farms and Ranches funding program to provide grants to help more California farmers adopt higher-welfare systems.  

The movement to eliminate some of the worst practices being used on factory farms is still going strong. Proposals to ban some of the most extreme forms of confinement like battery cages, veal crates and gestation crates have already been introduced in five states across the country: Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. The bills in Maryland and New Jersey have particularly good chances of success this year, especially with support of advocates like you.

Some states are taking even bigger leaps and are considering bills to stop the construction or expansion of the largest factory farms. These moratorium bills have been introduced in Iowa, Hawaii and Oregon. ASPCA supporters in Oregon are taking an active role in the Stand Up To Factory Farms coalition by organizing an educational webinar, contacting elected officials and helping move the bill forward through their leadership. 

The Bad

Unfortunately, the industrial agribusinesses that profit from factory farms are also pushing their agenda in statehouses across the country. At the top of their list are so-called “Right to Farm” bills that greatly limit the ability of states and local governments to regulate conditions on farms, including the cruel confinement of farm animals and other environmental and public health threats. We have already seen versions of these bills in Utah, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas and South Dakota, just to name a few.

Another familiar foe is “Ag-Gag” bills, which are designed to silence whistleblowers revealing animal abuse on industrial farms. The most alarming bill we have seen so far this year is in response to a court case in Utah, but we are also monitoring a version of an Ag-Gag bill in Missouri that targets advocates who “impede or disturb” the transport of farm animals, which could criminalize the simple act of giving water to animals on transport trucks.

In another disturbing trend, recent investigations have uncovered the employment of minors—some as young as 13—in animal slaughter and processing facilities. While some states and the U.S. Department of Labor are cracking down on the implicated livestock companies, legislators in several states, including Minnesota and Iowa, are seeking to weaken labor laws so they can continue allowing the employment of minors in slaughter facilities and other dangerous industries.

What You Can Do

State bills can move quickly, often with just a few days’ notice to take action. The best way to stay up-to-date is to sign up for our Advocacy Brigade. We will send you timely emails or text alerts when you can make a big impact for farm animals. Also, visit our Advocacy Center for a list of current, actionable alerts and use your voice to help pass better laws for farm animals.