AM Live Ag Report

FRESNO, Calif.

Capitol Press reports, a judge was to listen to arguments last week on whether sugar beets should be prohibited from commercial production while the U.S.D.A. produces an environmental report. But the judge ordered the hearing pushed back to August 13th after the Supreme Court struck down an injunction that had banned genetically modified alfalfa.

The judge wants both sides to examine how the alfalfa decision could affect the case.

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California apple growers expect a good-looking crop when they begin to harvest later this month.

Cooler temperatures have caused the fruit to develop good color. The State Apple Commission says the fruit is sizing well.

The California Farm Bureau says growers expect to produce about 3-million boxes of apples, with each box holding 40-pounds of fruit. However, trees on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley will not be back into production this season because there was no water last year.

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California's law to protect egg-laying hens has been extended to out-of-state egg suppliers.

Wednesday, the governor signed a bill that requires all eggs imported to California come from hens that have been raised out in the open or in cages that allow them to stand up and move around.

This undercover video taken at a California egg producer, in part, prompted voters in 2008 to approve more humane conditions for hens -- essentially banning cages so small, the crammed animals can't turn around. Governor Schwarzenegger's signature extends those same rules to out-of-state farmers who ship their eggs into the golden state, beginning in 2015; the same time California's law kicks in.

The humane society pushed the anti-cruelty measure and says this will also improve food safety, which is compromised when chickens live in stress. "It causes their immune to be reduced and their ability to ward off illness. That does end up creating higher risk for consumers down the line," said Jennifer Fearing with the Humane Society of the United States.

California is the fifth largest egg producer in the country, and the new regulation puts competitors on an even playing field.

But, the egg industry says studies are mixed as to whether a change in living conditions actually affects egg quality. And the U.C. Agricultural Issues Center estimates prices will increase by a couple of cents per egg because cage-free environments are more expensive. 97% of consumers today choose regular eggs, while only 3% buy cage-free eggs.

"This a product that just about everybody eats and almost everybody chooses to eat eggs raised with hens in cages; and take that product and make it illegal. That's a bit puzzling," said Prof. Daniel Summer with the UC Agricultural Issues Center.

Shoppers we spoke seemed okay with being forced to buy cage-free eggs.

"According to the egg producers, it'll up their overhead. Of course, they're going to pass it on to the consumer," said Robert Tatum.

"And you're okay with that?"

"I'm okay with that."

Amber Williams said: "I usually tend to be more for the animals as it is anyway ...whether it's chickens or dogs."

Egg producers who violate the new regulations could spend 6 months in jail and face a $1000 fine.

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