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Egg bill faces tough fight, sponsor says

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Schrader says producers sought his help on controversial legislation


By MITCH LIES


Capital Press


WILSONVILLE, Ore. -- A bill to set a national welfare standard for egg-laying hens faces an uphill battle, according to the congressman who introduced it.


Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., said House Agriculture Committee leaders have indicated they won't support the compromise legislation brokered between the United Egg Producers and The Humane Society of the United States.


"The chairman and the ranking member (Reps. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Collin Peterson, D-Minn.) have indicated they aren't real enthusiastic about it," Schrader said Jan. 27.


In addition, several farm and animal rights groups have come out in opposition to the bill since Schrader introduced it earlier this month.


HR3798 bans battery cages, requiring the nation's egg producers to employ larger, enriched colony cages for egg-laying hens. Producers would have 15 to 18 years to switch to the larger cages.


Schrader said he introduced the Egg Products Inspection Act after being approached by egg producers.


"Just to clarify, this is not something I am trying to promulgate on every livestock or poultry group out there," he said. "But three egg producers in my district came to me."


"They're being challenged by ballot measures ... by conservation groups that are concerned about the treatment of livestock," he said, adding, "I happen to think, as a farmer, we do a darn good job and our animals are, by and large, very humanely treated on our farms across the country."


Schrader farmed for more than 20 years in Clackamas County and operated a veterinary clinic.


"There are always a few bad actors. ... There are a few errant livestock producers who don't take care of their animals like they should," he said, "and, unfortunately, all these new rules come out."


"But these three producers came to me. They brokered a deal in the state of Oregon with The Humane Society of the U.S. by trying to find a common ground ... to head off some of these ballot measures and slightly increase the size of these cages," Schrader said.


"The industry came to me for that. I don't expect to see the cattlemen, the pork producers, the sheep producers and dairymen coming to me for that same type of thing, so we will not be introducing anything along those lines," he said.


"The bill, for clarity sake, is geared just toward egg-producing operations," he said. "It is a very narrow definition."


Schrader said he expected to take some criticism for introducing the bill.


"If you're dealing with veal calves, farrowing crates, you get nervous," he said. "You could be next on this. But I think being proactive, like the egg producers are, is probably a smarter way to approach this than pretending like it is just not going to happen."


He spoke at an Ag Summit hosted by the Portland law firm Dunn Carney.



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