A bill in Arizona that would mandate that only cage-free eggs produced and sold in the state has advanced in the state’s legislature.

Arizona House Bill 2724, introduced by Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, was given preliminary approval on March 10, according to Tuscon.com. Under the proposed legislation, starting in 2021, commercial egg operations must provide at least 1-square-foot (144 square inches) of space for each hen, more than double the current standard of 66 square inches per hen.

However, the bill would also call for all egg operations in the state to become cage-free operations.

Hickman’s Family Farms is Arizona’s largest egg producer. The company’s president, Glenn Hickman, said he doesn’t necessarily favor the bill as it is, but called it a better alternative to a ballot initiative that would have a more aggressive schedule regarding when the transition to cage-free eggs would be required. According to Hickman, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has threatened that if the bill does not pass, it would pursue such a ballot initiative.

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A spokeswoman for the Arizona Farm Bureau Federation said she opposes cage-free egg laws of any sort, because consumers would not be given a choice on what type of eggs they purchase and prices of eggs at the retail level would likely increase substantially.

Dunn represents the district where Hickman’s is headquartered.

Presently, laws have been passed in California, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Michigan that will require all eggs produced and/or sold in their state come from cage-free laying systems. Additionally, similar legislation is under consideration in Maine, Hawaii and Colorado.

Hickman’s Family Farms has a layer flock of 5.6 million hens. In addition to having hens in Arizona, the company also has layers in Colorado. Rose Acre Farms, the second largest egg company in the United States, also has a presence in Arizona.