Egg producers' bargain concerns livestock industry

Jan 27, 2012

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While the United Egg Producers (UEP) are making friends with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), other livestock groups are concerned their newfound agreement may leave behind a few rotten eggs for the industry to pick up.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) criticized legislation introduced by Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-OR, that would seal an agreement made between HSUS and UEP, and codify the federally-mandated egg production practices the two groups agreed on last summer that estab lish a national standard on cage sizes and enriched housing for egg-laying hens. NCBA President Bill Donald said the legislation would set a dangerous precedent for allowing the federal government to dictate on-farm production practices.

“This ill-conceived legislation could set the model for a one-sizefits-all approach to cattle production. Unfortunately, one-size-fits all doesn’t work with cattle producers, who are in diverse settings in all 50 states. This legislation won’t improve animal health or care and will result in further costly and

burdensome regulations being placed on America’s food producers,” Donald said.

“This HSUS-backed legislation would set a dangerous precedent that could let Washington bureaucrats dictate how livestock and poultry producers raise and care for their animals,” said National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President Doug Wolf, a hog farmer from Lancaster, WI. “If enacted, it would open Pandora’s Box for special interest groups to pursue similar federal laws on pig farmers, dairy farmers and other family farming operations.”

Schrader, along with Reps. Elton Gallegly, R-CA, Sam Farr, D- CA, and Jeff Denham, R-CA, introduced H.R. 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012.

According to Schrader, it would also bring order and sustainability to the egg industry that is currently facing a barrage of state initiatives that have the potential to create an extremely problematic patchwork of state laws across the country that threaten the continued viability of many of our farmers.

“The agreement between the United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States represents an important and necessary step in addressing the patchwork of state laws facing the industry and providing stability for farmers moving forward, “ said Schrader. “I take my hat off to both organizations for putting aside their historical differences and working together to reach a deal that provides certainty for our farmers while providing improved conditions for the hens.”

According to Schrader, it would not impact other livestock or commodity groups.

The bill would require egg producers nationally to ultimately double the housing space allotted to egg-laying hens and make other significant animal welfare improvements. Such changes would occur during a tiered phasein period of 15 to 18 years to allow farmers the necessary time to make investments in better housing.

HSUS agreed to drop state ballot initiatives that would dictate egg production practices and to stop 10 years of litigation against any undercover investigations of the egg industry in exchange for egg producers nearly doubling the size of their cages for laying hens, according to NPPC.

H.R. 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 would:

Require conventional cages to be replaced during an ample phase-in period with new, enriched colony housing systems that provide all egg-laying hens nearly double the amount of current space; Require that, after a phase-in period, all egg-laying hens be provided with environmental enrichments, such as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas, that will allow hens to express natural behaviors; Require labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs — “eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from hens in enriched cages,” “eggs from cage-free hens,” and “eggs from free-range hens;” Prohibit feed- or waterwithdrawal molting to ex tend the laying cycle, a practice already prohibited by the United Egg Producers Certified program; Require standards approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association for euthanasia of egg-laying hens; prohibit excessive ammonia levels in henhouses and prohibit the transport and sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these requirements.

The following groups have endorsed the UEP/HSUS agreement:

• United Egg Producers

• Association of California Egg Farmers

• Colorado Egg Producers Association

• Florida Poultry Association

• Michigan Agri-Business Association

• Michigan Allied Poultry Industries

• North Carolina Egg Association

• Ohio Egg Processors Association

• The Humane Society of the United States

• American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

• Animal Legal Defense Fund

• Compassion In World Farming

• Compassion Over Killing

• Farm Sanctuary

• The Humane League

• In Defense of Animals

• Mercy for Animals

• World Society for the Protection of Animals

•National Consumers League Despite the obvious collaboration between some groups that have long been polar opposites, the beef and pork industry is leery.

“America’s cattle producers work day in and day out, in extreme weather and at all hours of the day and night to ensure your family and families around the world have a safe, wholesome and consistent supply of beef. Instead of mandating production practices and increasing regulatory burdens on America’s farmers and ranchers, we urge members of Congress to reject this legislation and to work with food producers to empower and enable them to continue raising the healthiest, safest and most wholesome food supply in the world.” — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Correspondent