Help from California


When the state's economy needs a shot in the arm, Nevadans can always count on California to ride to the rescue. The Golden State's Marxist lawmakers have put ever-increasing tax and regulatory burdens on industry, chasing scores of employers to the more business-friendly confines of Nevada. But come Nov. 4, it's California's voters who might deliver the coup de grace to their ranching industry -- and help diversify Nevada's economy in the process.

California's Proposition 2 is the signature initiative from that state's animal-rights crazies. It would prohibit ranchers from confining chickens, veal calves and breeding pigs to spaces that prohibit free movement. If voters approve the measure, ranchers would have six years to figure out how to quadruple their cage space while maintaining profitability and productivity.

California has about 19 million egg-laying chickens. Tight cages enable ranchers to efficiently remove excrement while transferring eggs to cartons without involving human labor. Amid rising feed costs, such practices keep eggs affordable for American consumers.

"Even if I had money to make all of the changes, we would not be competitive with the rest of the nation," said Jill Benson, president of the J.S. West farm, about 110 miles southeast of San Francisco. If voters approve the question, "eggs would be outsourced. We don't have the consumers for more expensive eggs."

Indeed, industry groups have warned the public that a yes vote on Proposition 2 will force farmers to leave California for other states, or perhaps Mexico.

Proposition 2 supporters assert their measure is meant to spare animals from cruelty. Yes on 2 spokeswoman Jennifer Fearing compared life as an egg-laying chicken to a person spending an "entire life on an elevator with eight other people."

Only we're not talking about people. We're talking about chickens. People eat chickens and their eggs, and that's the real issue here. Animal rights groups don't want ranching businesses to survive -- they want to force the population to stop eating meat and animal products.

If that's what California voters want, more power to them. The Nevada Development Authority and other state leaders should watch the Proposition 2 vote closely. They should make contact with California ranchers and farmers as soon as possible to let them know that if they're not wanted in California, they'd be welcome to do business in the Silver State.