No Sign of California's Egg Producers Moving out

US - Following the popular vote to ban battery cages in California, many feared producers in that state would move across the state-line to others such as Idaho.
calendar icon 11 February 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

Idaho is among several states watching to see if a new California law on hen housing drives big egg farms to fly the coop, reports Modesto Bee.

California voters in 2008 approved Proposition 2, pushed by groups claiming that hens suffered from being kept in small cages. It takes effect in 2015.

Neither Idaho nor Nevada, where officials are aggressively courting the Californian egg industry, have such restrictions on cages.

Idaho state Senator Tim Corder has no desire to change that in his state. Industry should decide, he insists.

But the Senate Agriculture Committee chairman does want to revamp rules governing where and how giant poultry farms are operated to skirt pitfalls that accompanied explosive growth of Idaho's dairy industry. His state went from 180,000 cows in 1990 to 530,000 in 2009 to become the third-biggest milk producer after California and Wisconsin, but the arrival of mega-dairies caught regulators flat-footed and prompted environmentalists to call foul.

Senator Corder said: "The time when agriculture can sweep in and do whatever it wants and nobody will say anything about it until it's too late, that time is past. If we're going to do this, let's do it right from the start."

Egg industry leader Jill Benson, a vice president at J.S. West & Cos. in Modesto, said she has not heard of California producers planning to move to Idaho or Nevada.

She said people in the industry are concerned that measures similar to California's could be enacted by initiative or legislation elsewhere.

She added: "I think everybody is sort of cautious about making a move like that when it appears that things are happening in other states."

J.S. West is building a new house aimed at complying with Proposition 2, a project near Livingston that will hold eight per cent of the company's flock. She added that the project, expected to be done by June, could be one of several such conversions in the next few years.

The new housing will provide 116 square inches of cage floor space per hen, which is still not considered enough by the measure's chief sponsor, the Humane Society of the United States.

The measure requires that hens have enough room to stand, turn around and extend their wings without touching the cage walls or other birds. The industry has complained that the standards are vague because they do not include exact dimensions.

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