February 22, 2018
Additional efforts are underway in California to implement cage-free hen housing and include two ballot referendums and a legislative bill. All will have a similar result, cage-free housing with usable floor space as defined in the 2017 UEP Certified Cage-Free Guidelines, for laying hens housed in California and for laying hens whose eggs are sold in California. The implementation of this requirement is the major difference.
Introduced on February 16 and backed by the Association of California Egg Farmers, Bill No. 3021 proposes a phased cage-free implementation. The legislation, for both shell and liquid eggs, sets two key dates. Effective January 1, 2020, all eggs sold must be from hens with 144 square inches of usable floor space. Effective January 1, 2024, all eggs sold must be from hens with cage-free housing and usable floor space as identified in the 2017 edition of the UEP Certified Cage-Free Guidelines. The bill identified penalties not to exceed $1,000 or no more than 180 days in jail for farmers in California or other states, not adhering to these standards.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is backing a proposed referendum, Prevention of Cruelty to Farm Animals Act that covers not only laying hens, but also sows, and veal calves. Regarding laying hens, the referendum proposes cage-free housing requirements similar to California Bill No. 3021 including penalties. The significant difference is an effective date of January 1, 2022, two years earlier than Bill No. 3021, for producers to comply with hen usable floor space as identified in the 2017 edition of the UEP Certified Cage-Free Guidelines. The referendum is well on its way to the November ballot, having received 200,000 of the necessary 600,000 signatures. The signatures are being collected by a coalition of animal rights groups, Prevent Cruelty California.
The Association of California Egg Farmers also have filed their own Referendum that could go on the ballot this November if they collect enough signatures and qualify. This referendum proposes a phased implementation, with the same deadlines as Assembly Bill No. 3021.
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