Missouri egg producers have had to pay out $120 million to expand their coops
Everyone’s in a tizzy about Proposition 2, which, although first passed by voters in California six years ago, is about to finally be enforced with the impending January 1, 2015 deadline. At that time, farmers who plan to sell their eggs to the Golden State must be in compliance with the parameters of the so-called Egg Law which mandate that battery cages must be done away with and replaced with larger living quarters that better accommodate egg-laying hens. Whether the bill has an anti-animal cruelty message, one that is meant to stop the spread of harmful diseases such as salmonella, or both, the fact remains that the deadline is looming for farmers to put up or shut up. This means many in-state and out-of-state farmers have been scrambling to update their facilities to include larger quarters for hens that essentially allow them more freedom of movement so they can stretch their wings, turn around and lay down in comfort. Proponents point to increased humane treatment of chickens with this new law. Hens in such close living quarters have been known to self-destruct, causing injury to themselves and others with nothing else to do but sit in one place. They also say chickens in such close quarters are more at risk for passing and contracting diseases like salmonella, which can in turn be passed on to consumers who eat the eggs. Detractors of the Prop 2 initiative say it’s far too costly to convert cage systems to the new standard, which could put many small-time farmers out of business fast. Missouri egg producers, for example, have had to pay out $120 million to expand their coops, leading to a likely production increase of 20 percent – a cost that will very likely be passed on to consumers, says FrontPageMag. These same opposers say the very existence of Prop 2 is unconstitutional and could very well lead to further governmental mandates that regulate how corn is transported or even how beans are picked.
Who will pay?
Back to the cost issue, though: what’s really going on here and who will pay? Will there be an increase in the price of eggs? The evidence points to yes. How much exactly is not really known yet. The famers will certainly pay because they have to upgrade their coops to five feet by 12 feet with a max housing capacity of no more than 60 hens. Those who plan to sell their eggs to California for distribution – one of the biggest sellers of eggs in the nation – must comply or risk losing those contracts. According to ABA Journal, battery cages (the U.S. standard used before Prop 2 came along) produced up to 90 percent of eggs around the country, with California importing four billion eggs every year. That’s why six states have filed lawsuits against California, claiming Prop 2 will make the price of their eggs skyrocket and therefore make it impossible to compete outside that state. If they don’t comply and decide not to sell to California, they say, this could lead to an oversaturation of the market in all the other states, driving a huge price drop that could precipitate the need to close their doors. Furthermore, detractors say it’s this regulation of interstate commerce that is essentially going against the dormant commerce clause of the Constitution.
Eggs could go up by as much as 20 percent
While the increase of egg prices in California and the rest of the country has yet to be seen since the deadline is not upon us yet, analysts have suggested the price of eggs could go up by as much as 20 percent. Egg production costs are also expected to increase by 76 percent, according to Ballotpedia. Conservative estimates on increases point to just a one-cent increase per egg. Come January 1 and the days and months after, the effects of the California egg law will be more clearly seen from all perspectives, as Prop 2 ripples across the country.