Agriculture

Measure backing bigger hen cages qualifies for ballot

A ballot measure that would phase out small hen cages in the state's egg industry has qualified for the November ballot.

The California Secretary of State's Office announced today that the measure got more than the required 433,971 signatures from registered voters.

The measure, sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States and allied groups, would require that cages provide enough room for hens to stand up, lie down, turn around and fully extend their limbs.

They said this is not possible with industry practice that allows as little as 67 square inches of cage floor space per hen - less than a sheet of letter paper.

Opponents, including leaders in the Northern San Joaquin Valley's large egg industry, say these cages protect the birds from disease and injury.

They say consumers can buy cage-free eggs, but the measure would increase prices for everyone.

If approved by voters, the changes would have to be made by the start of 2015.

The measure also would ban small enclosures for cattle raised for veal and for pregnant pigs. These are not major industries in the north valley.

The complete text of the ballot measure is at http://ag.ca.gov/cms_pdfs/initiatives/2007-08-09_07-0041_Initiative.pdf

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