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Agriculture News As It Happens

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Egg-layer housing bill introduced in House; Farm Bureau and other groups oppose

A bipartisan group of House members on Monday introduced a bill promoted by the United Egg Producers and the Human Society of the United States to resolve conflicts over the housing of egg-producing chickens, but six other agriculture groups quickly announced their opposition to the legislation.

Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., and Sam Farr, D-Calif., introduced the bill that HSUS and UEG said would “lead to improvements in housing for 280 million hens involved in U.S. egg production, while providing a stable future for egg farmers.”

The bill will require egg producers to essentially double the space allotted per hen and make other important animal welfare improvements during a tiered phase-in period that allows farmers time to make the investments in better housing, with the assurance that all will face the same requirements by the end of the phase-in period, the groups said. It would also supersede state laws on the housing of egg-producing chickens.

The legislation is also supported by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and other animal welfare groups, National Consumers League, and state agricultural and egg producer groups, including the Association of California Egg Farmers, Colorado Egg Producers Association, Florida Poultry Association, Michigan Agri-Business Association, Michigan Allied Poultry Industries, North Carolina Egg Association and Ohio Egg Processors Association.

HSUS and UEG reached agreement after conflicts over egg production had led HSUS to introduce state initiatives on egg production regulation that were approved by voters, and are promoting the legislation as a way to avoid a patchwork of conflicting state laws that would make interstate commerce in eggs difficult, if not impossible.

But the American Farm Bureau Federation said today that the bill would “replace decades of science-based animal care practices with strict government control” and “set a dangerous precedent by establishing federally mandated egg production practices and banning a member of other proven science-based egg production methods.”

Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman noted that National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council, the National Chicken Council, the National Turkey Federation and the National Milk Producers Federation had joined Farm Bureau in opposing the bill.