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California bans conventional egg production
Proposition 2 passes by a huge margin

Hank Shaw, Capital Press 11/4/08

SACRAMENTO -- California voters passed Proposition 2 Tuesday night, essentially banning conventional egg production in the state.

As of 10:30 p.m., Prop. 2 was winning with nearly two-thirds of the vote. Voters in the Bay Area and Los Angeles overwhelmingly voted for the measure, while most of the Central Valley and North State opposed it.

Gene Baur, president of Farm Sanctuary - one of the chief proponents of Prop. 2 - said the victory is a landmark.

"The passage of Prop 2 in the country's largest agricultural state marks a monumental victory for farm animals," Baur said. "Today marks a significant change in the way we view and treat farm animals and falls closer in line with public sentiments and values of compassion. We look forward to seeing these confinement systems phased out nationwide."

The egg industry expects to see the measure spread to other states, which is one reason why egg producers from all over the country chipped in to help fight the ballot measure.

It is unclear whether any legal challenge to Prop. 2 is imminent, but rumblings from all corners - ranging from the egg industry to the animal-rights movement - have been surfacing in recent months.

Egg producers will be banned from using conventional cages under the new law. Laying hens will need to be able to stand up, stretch their wings, dust bathe and do other things that free-range chickens can do.

Growers will have until 2015 to comply with the rules.

Various economic analyses suggest that the industry will be deeply transformed under Prop. 2, with those that choose to remain in California switching to all free-range eggs, for which there is a national demand.

Many producers have said they will consider moving their operations to other states, or even to Mexico. Prop. 2 does not ban the sale of conventional eggs in California, it only bans growers from raising them that way inside state lines.

California already gets about a third of its shell eggs from other states.

The campaign was among the rougher in the election season, fueled by at least $15 million in combined spending. Politicians on both sides got involved in the endorsement process: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urged voters to oppose Prop. 2, while both of California's U.S. senators urged a "yes" vote.

Both sides filed lawsuits, but the Humane Society filed five, and helped bring to light alleged price-fixing by the national egg industry that became the basis for a raft of class-action lawsuits.

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