On Nov. 4, California voters will consider Proposition 2, “Standards for Confining Farm Animals.”

Specifically the proposal requires that certain farm animals be allowed (for the majority of every day) to fully extend their limbs and wings, lie down, stand up, and turn around.

Voter approval of this ballot initiative could lead to the rapid demise of California's egg industry.

According to the 2007 California Agricultural Resource Directory, 10 million layers produced 4.9 billion eggs which added $212 million to California's economy.

Results from a University of California-funded study conducted by the University of California Agricultural Issues Center explored the potential economic effects on California egg farmers and consumers if Proposition 2 passes.

The study found that the state's egg industry would be severely hobbled. Costs of production would rise and more eggs shipped in from other states, which would not be required to meet the regulations set for California production.

“The most likely outcome, therefore, is the elimination of almost all of the California egg industry over a very few years,” said the study's lead author Daniel Sumner, director, Agricultural Issues Center, and Frank H. Buck, jr. professor, UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Proposition 2 is not really about cage size and humane animal treatment. In reality, many use such campaigns to convince others to support the vegetarian diet, oppose what they call “factory farms,” and endorse cows roaming freely in pastures while mooing the song “Kumbaya.”

What is a factory or corporate farm?

I recall an article where the headline inaccurately announced the opening of Arizona's first ethanol “factory,” i.e. plant. The latest figures I noted on “corporate farms” said 2 percent of the nation's farms are owned by corporations; in other words 98 percent of all U.S. farms are owned by families. Many corporate-owned farms are family owned and operated, and incorporated for tax reasons.

It's not difficult to track the noisy environmental wacko groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) that use emotional messaging to tug at consumers' heartstrings with a total disregard of scientific agricultural facts.

Ed Ableser and David Lujan, Arizona state representatives, sponsored a bill last year mandating more cage space for laying hens. At the invitation of Clint Hickman, Hickman's Family Farms, Buckeye, the lawmakers toured Hickman's egg ranch with an open mind. In addition to the tour, Hickman showed the lawmakers a cage-free farm video. Ableser withdrew the legislation.

No one cares more about the humane treatment of farm animals than the farmer or rancher. It's the right thing to do, and animal health is directly tied to the farm's fiscal viability.

Unfortunately small scale agriculture is a way of the past. Larger farms, especially in the West, are better able to survive skyrocketing input costs for diesel and fertilizer while also competing for markets with farmers worldwide.

The world's population is expected to swell from 6.7 billion to 8 billion by 2025. To meet global demand, Western farmers are challenged to grow more food and fiber, not less as advocated under Proposition 2.