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New Rules May Force Egg Prices Higher

Enjoy the price you pay for eggs today, because they are likely going up according to a July 21 report in the Phoenix Business Journal.

An agreement between the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers could result in additional costs for farmers, including the Valley’s Hickman’s Family Farms, as new rules are implemented.

The society and the egg producers, a nationwide cooperative of suppliers, signed a deal this month that would have both groups lobby Congress for a law that would establish cage size rules and carton labeling that describes the circumstances in which the hens are housed.

Conventional cages for hens have ranged between 48 square inches and 67 square inches for the birds. The new agreement would create a minimum cage standard between 124 square inches and 144 square inches.

Glenn Hickman, co-owner of Hickman’s Family Farms in Buckeye, Ariz., said to the Journal that he’s concerned about the new proposal and already has seen some impacts through a proposition measure approved in California.

Hickman’s Family Farms has facilities in Arizona, Texas and California. California voters approved increasing its state cage sizes for not only hens but other types of farm animals through Proposition 2 in 2008.

The new rules take affect in 2015, and Hickman said his business has been taking measures since then to come into compliance with the new rules by replacing older cages with the new, larger ones. “We’ve been building towards this eventuality and we want to be ahead of this curve,” Hickman said.

While Hickman declined to go into detail about the cages’ sizes, exact costs and how far they are into the replacement process, the new law has resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional costs for the Hickman’s California property, he said.

Hickman’s offers organic eggs, vegetarian-fed eggs, eggs from uncooped hens and traditional grade AA eggs. Discussions and bill introductions could start this fall as Congress resumes its session.

Hickman said his business will comply with whatever rules are ultimately created by Congress. But like anything else, it’s going to cost money.

“Our industry estimates that we are going to spend $10 billion on this over the next 20 years,” Hickman said.

And that is likely going to raise prices that consumers see at the grocery store.

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