California’s Prop 2 to get facelift

Opponents of Prop 2 see a chance for clarification on confinement standards

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Egg producers who export their product to California from other states may find themselves having to meet the same animal housing standards as their California competition.

California Assembly Bill 1437 would require that laying hens in other states be treated to the same conditions as those in California if farmers want to sell their product in the Golden State. It passed the Assembly last week and is now under review in the Senate.

Last year, California voters approved Proposition 2 which forbids confining many farm animals in ways that inhibit their ability to engage in natural behaviors. Breeding pigs and veal calves, for example, are frequently held in pens that don’t allow them to even turn around. The proposal’s guidelines on chicken cages, in particular, drew a great deal of attention and voters passed the proposition by more than 63 percent.

Prop 2 called for the elimination of cages that prevent chickens from standing up, lying down, turning around, or being able to fully extend their wings by 2015. What Prop 2 didn’t offer were the new standards by which farmers are to operate. Assembly Bill 1437, introduced by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) may offer a chance to finally delineate those standards.

“We need an enforceable legal standard,” Dennis Albiani, a lobbyist for the Association of California Egg Farmers, told Capital Press last week. “This is a criminal statute that puts the farmer and their employees at significant risk of fines and jail time.” Huffman’s AB 1437 is the means for establishing that legal standard, he said.

Indeed, legislative analysis of the bill noted “Opponents feel that AB 1437 should specify enclosure size per hen, how many hens per enclosure, and if current housing systems can be used or modified to comply with AB 1437 and Prop. 2.”

The bill moves on next to the Senate Health Committee where it will be read July 1.

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