Written by Jill Benson, vice president of a 100-year-old agriculture outfit in Modesto, the article said the initiative is "a risky, dangerous and costly measure -- because it threatens our food safety and public health by putting us at increased risk for Salmonella contamination and avian influenza (bird flu)."
She said farmers' first concern is always the healthful, humane care of hens.
"Prop. 2 bans the safe, humane practices our state's farmers developed based on generations of experience and expert advice," Benson wrote.
Proponents of Prop. 2 say the hens live in cages so small that the birds can’t spread their wings, nest, dust-bathe, perch or walk more than a few steps.
For her column, Benson cited the recently released UC Davis economic impact study, which, she noted, found that passage of Prop. 2 will eliminate almost all of the state's egg industry in five years and further harm the state's economy due to resulting job and revenue losses.
As a result, California will lose thousands of jobs and $615 million in economic activity and millions more in lost state and local tax revenues, the article says.
With 85 days till the November election, cackling continues in the media over Proposition 2, the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act. The proposed law would bar veal crates, battery cages, sow gestation crates and any enclosure that prevents animals from turning around, standing up or spreading their wings.
Fresno Bee reporter Dennis Pollock called it a "study in cage fighting" when he reported on what he termed "dueling news releases."
In his column, Pollock wrote, "The headline on a release from the University of California: 'UC study: If passed, initiative likely to drive egg production out of state.' . . . the Humane Society of the United States countered with: 'New UC Davis study claims Prop 2 is good for consumers ...'
According to the Daily News, Tehama County farmer Zach Whitten is in favor of the initiative. Whitten will be unaffected by the law. He uses a system called "range confinement," housing chickens in cages large enough to let them wander around and dust themselves.
The story quotes the UC Agricultural Issues Center study, saying that the Proposition could raise in-state egg costs by 20 percent for the farmer and 25 percent for the consumer, but that grocery store prices will be stable as out-of-state producers send more eggs over the state line.
The Fresno Bee story noted that the Merced County Board of Supervisors voted to oppose the initiative.
An article in the North (San Diego) County Times, which also pulled information from the AIC study, quoted two egg producers:
"We won't be in operation anymore," Ryan Armstrong, vice president of operations for Armstrong Egg Farms in Valley Center, predicted. "We'd have to buy hundreds of acres to supply as many eggs as we do now. At $50,000 an acre, it gets pretty expensive."
The cost of compliance would be "prohibitive," according Kevin Demler, whose Pine Hill Egg Ranch in Ramona is the largest in the county, with 1 million hens.
A sprinkling of newspapers ran stories today based on the ANR press release distributed yesterday on the potential economic effects of passing Proposition 2. Voters will decide in November whether to approve the initiative, which would require egg producers to employ cage-free production practices.
In addition to spreading news about the likely downfall of the California egg industry, the coverage revealed that there's something about eggs that begets puns.
The Sacramento Bee said the "November ballot measure meant to improve the lives of the state's laying hens likely would crack the state's egg industry."
The Woodland Daily Democrat's headline quips, "Initiative lays an egg for state producers."
The Stockton Record's jest was more subtle; its headline reads "Measure could send egg industry packing, study says." The Record's story, written by Reed Fujii, balances comments from the study's two authors with a proponent of the measure.
A radio clip on Inland News Today declares "egg-laying hens would be freed from their cages."
It looks like Proposition 2 will prompt a significant amount of debate in the coming months, but as they say, you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs.
The debate over Proposition 2 is beginning to heat up. The proposition, which will appear on the November ballot, was designed to regulate treatment of farm animals. So far, voters seem to be in favor of the idea. According to a story in today's San Jose Mercury-News, a field poll found that two-thirds of California voters will mark their ballots in favor of the initiative.
Among other things, Prop 2 would end the common practice of housing egg-laying hens in cages in California starting in 2015. A new study released today by the UC Agricultural Issues Center found that nearly all of the $330 million
The UC research study concludes that non-cage production costs are so much higher than the costs of the cage systems, it would prevent California producers from competing with eggs produced in other states, which will not be required to follow the new regulations. A news release by ANR's Pam Kan-Rice about the AIC study was distributed to the media today. The release says the study was funded by the University of California, but it seems there may be some misinformation in the media about that point.
An article in the Fresno Bee last May said scientists at UC Davis and other institutions received $400,000 from the American Egg Board to study the use of cages for egg-laying chickens.
Freelance writer Don Curlee expressed outrage in his column about the proposition, which ran in various newspapers including the Visalia Times-Delta today. He wrote that the initiative was placed on the ballot by a "compact of kook-fringe animal rights advocates."
At least one reader took exception. "I'll be glad to pay extra at the supermarket, I already do for cage-free eggs and dairy-free products. But tsk, tsk, poor ag-lobbyist/publicist Mr. Curlee -- the only member of the 'kook-fringe' I see here," the reader wrote in the newspaper's online comments section.
It will be interesting to see following the November election who winds up with egg on their faces./st1:state>
Following a long holiday weekend, there are a few ANR news stories to catch up on:
Last week, the Sacramento Bee ran an article about a price increase for another food commodity: eggs. The story, written by Jim Downing, says wholesale egg prices have shot up 27 percent since mid-May.
The story quoted UC Davis Cooperative Extension specialist emeritus Don Bell. He told the reporter that a sizable shipment of eggs last month to Japan and Iraq apparently tightened domestic supplies, driving prices up.
The Sacramento Bee today ran a story about a side effect of this year's dry spring: numerous dry fox tail weeds. The article, written by Blair Anthony Robertson, says barbed, missle-shaped, waxy tips of wild grass are annoying to humans, and dangerous to animals.
UC Davis Cooperative Extension veterinarian John Maas commented in the article about the fox tails' hazard to cattle.
"Oh, man, they are the bane of our existence," he is quoted. "The cattle have fur around their face and eyes, and they get those darn foxtails around their eyes. Oftentimes, they get into their eyes. It can cause quite a bit of damage. It can cause blindness."
Finally, a column by Ramona Frances for the Madera Tribune lamented society's lack of respect for farmers. She was commenting on an article in Grower Magazine by Vicky Boyd that suggested the baby boomer and previous generations more often than not considered farmers hard workers and essential contributors, but the younger generations do not share those attitudes. (The Tribune column cited the Grower commentary, but I couldn't find it on the Web site.)
Frances included perspective from Madera County UCCE director Neil McDougald. According to the article, he believes everyone in agriculture has a responsibility to educate others about it.
"The 4-H program we have right now is one that reaches out to youth in all generations," he is quoted.