California egg producers announced on May 11, the formation of the Association of California Egg Farmers (ACEF).

The non-profit trade association will serve as an advocate on state policies affecting the California egg industry and to ensure the production of fresh and affordable eggs that meet food safety and animal care standards expected by consumers, according to an ACEF release.

California egg farmers produce 4.9 billion eggs a year, providing a fresh, affordable source of food. California is the fifth largest egg producer in the country. Most of the state's egg farms are family-owned and generate thousands of jobs for Californians.

"The state's egg farmers have a long history of providing a safe, healthy, and nutritious source of food for California's families," said ACEF Executive Director Debbie Murdock.

"The egg farmers are establishing the Association of California Egg Farmers to ensure they can continue to meet consumer expectations for fresh and affordable eggs that meet food safety and animal care standards," Murdock said.

One of the association's first tasks will be addressing the implementation of Proposition 2, a ballot measure California voters approved in November 2008. The measure imposes new mandates on how state egg producers house egg-laying hens.

"California egg farmers respect the voters' decision and want to comply with Proposition 2, but the initiative's language is so vague that producers don't know what they need to do to meet the new mandates and avoid jail sentences," Murdock said.

According to Murdoch, the initiative provides no clear standards or guidelines for determining the amount of hen space required to meet the new mandates. The new law doesn't indicate if enclosures, including cage-free enclosures, currently used by California egg producers will comply with the law.

Murdoch said, "California's egg producers need clear-cut standards and guidelines to determine if they can comply with the law and continue to humanely produce fresh and affordable eggs under Proposition 2.

Fined-tuned standards and guidelines are also crucial so egg farmers can pursue financing as needed to invest in the design and construction of potential new housing systems, Murdoch said.