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Ag groups worry California cage ban will spread

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Farm groups have criticized a new California law that bans keeping chickens, calves, and pigs in cages, arguing it will increase production costs, while animal welfare proponents said they hope to get similar laws adopted in other states.

California voters on November 4 passed Proposition 2, which bans the confinement of egg-laying chickens, veal calves and pregnant pigs. Endorsed by animal welfare groups, such as the Humane Society of the United States, the law will become effective in 2015.

“California often is a bellwether, so it’s likely this ban will be pushed in other states,” Bryan Black, president of the National Pork Producers Council, said in a statement. “We certainly don’t expect the Humane Society to stop with California.”

Black called it “regrettable” that farmers and ranchers “who treat their animals humanely and provide them a safe, healthy environment” were vilified by animal-rights groups.

The American Farm Bureau and the state’s egg industry argue the law will increase costs to produce eggs, which likely will have consumers buying less-expensive eggs shipped in from other states.

“It will have a big impact on the California egg production industry,” said Mace Thornton, spokesman for the Farm Bureau. “It represents a trend of the Humane Society of the United States being able to successfully put these questions to the voters without an understanding of farm practices.”

The California Poultry Federation claims it will cost about $1 more to produce a dozen eggs from cage-free chickens, a cost that will not be borne by producers from other states.

“The public felt those were false arguments,” Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, told Reuters.

Pacelle said the Humane Society expected to push other states to adopt similar measures and to encourage retailers to buy eggs and others products from producers who do not confine chickens and livestock.

While the proposition also applies to veal, California does not have a veal industry, according to the American Veal Association.

“We certainly hope we don’t see more of these measures on the ballot in other states, but the animal activists have a lot more money than the American veal farmer,” said Chip Lines, president of the American Veal Association.

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