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The aftermath of Proposition 2

November 6, 2008 |  8:57 am

Two_chickensCalifornians passed Proposition 2 on Tuesday, but the debate over egg prices hasn't completely died down.

For months, farmers in the Golden State contended that passage of the farm animal welfare measure, which is supposed to free about 20 million egg-laying hens of their tiny cages, would drive up egg prices -- or even drive them out of business.

Wednesday, the measure's proponents said that rise was unlikely, especially since the measure doesn't take effect until 2015. The head of the Humane Society of the U.S., which sponsored the campaign, said farmers would adjust to meet an increasing demand for eggs from cage-free birds. "For them to say 'we're all going out of business because we have to let the birds stretch their wings' is absurd," said Wayne Pacelle, the group's president.

In addition, California imports a third of the shelled eggs it consumes from out-of-state producers, which are not subject to the new regulations. A new study from the UC Davis Agricultural Issues Center said there would be no reason for a jump in the price of those eggs. 

But Ryan Armstrong, an egg farmer in Valley Center, Calif., predicted he would have to leave the state rather than convert to cage-free housing. "We haven't quite figured it out. We'll probably in the next month or so let some employees go and slim down our operations," Armstrong said Wednesday. "Our goal is probably not to stay in the egg business."

Times staff writers Carla Hall and Jerry Hirsch have the details in today's Business section.

--Alice Short

Photo: Associated Press

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