Discussions between the United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States started a couple of months ago, but negotiations began in earnest just three weeks ago, spokesmen for both sides said.
Impetus for the settlement was the looming July 8 Washington ballot initiative signature deadline, said Mitch Head, UEP spokesman. HSUS had collected enough signatures to put its cage-free initiative to a statewide vote this fall.
"Both sides would have been spending a lot of time and money in that and wanted to avoid that," he said. "Both sides can use resources in more productive ways than continuing to battle each other state by state."
Negotiations involved UEP chairman Bob Krouse, HSUS president Wayne Pacelle, one other staffer on each side and attorneys for each side, Head said. They occurred in Phoenix, Los Angeles and other cities where schedules allowed, he said.
"There is hope for world peace," Head said with a laugh, noting the length of the battle and apparent unlikeliness of agreement between the two adversaries.
HSUS could revert to a state-by-state initiative approach if the federal effort fails, said Paul Shapiro, senior director of HSUS's Factory Farming Campaign.
That would result in a "nightmare of patchwork quilt" legislation in different states giving unfair advantages to some producers over others, Head said.
-- Dan Wheat