Cattle, pork groups concerned legislation could hurt them
By DAN WHEAT
United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States say they are close to finishing draft legislation for federal egg production standards.
The work probably will be done in a couple of weeks but the groups may not seek congressional movement until next year, given the focus on the federal budget, said Mitch Head, spokesman for United Egg Producers based near Atlanta.
Potential sponsors are being talked to and a bill shouldn't be any harder to move during a presidential election year than this year, Head said.
It may get more attention next year, given that Congress also will be considering the farm bill, he said.
"It's a rare situation when you have industry and animal welfare on the same side of an issue. It makes it harder to become a partisan issue," said Paul Shapiro, senior director of the Humane Society's Factory Farming Campaign.
Timing hasn't been worked out and a bill still may be introduced this year, Shapiro said.
Shapiro and Head both said they have not heard of any opposition other than that previously stated by the National Pork Producers Council and National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Both fear such legislation will set a precedent for animal welfare bills affecting their industries.
UEP and HSUS ended more than 10 years of legal and legislative battles July 7 with an agreement to work for federal standards for the welfare and housing of all 280 million egg-laying hens in the nation. HSUS agreed to shelve initiative efforts for cage-free systems in Washington and Oregon and any future initiatives in other states. The standards would allow for larger, enriched-colony cages and phase out smaller cages over 15 to 18 years at an estimated cost of $4 billion.
It would prohibit the sale of eggs and egg products nationwide not meeting the standards. Small producers likely would be exempt.
Excessive ammonia levels in hen houses would be banned, certain euthanasia standards for hens would be adopted and the practice of withholding feed and water to cause molting to extend laying cycles would be banned.