Analysis: UEP has edge in egg bill battle
Updated: Friday, May 25, 2012 4:49 PM
By DAN WHEAT
The public side of the national egg bill battle has heated up with videos, advertising and statements for and against HR 3798.
The bill sets national standards requiring egg producers to move to larger cages over almost two decades.
But which of the bill's collaborators -- United Egg Producers or the Humane Society of the United States -- gains the most or is left in the better position if the bill ultimately fails?
UEP does, according to Bradley Miller, president of the Humane Farming Association of San Rafael, Calif. He once was an ally of HSUS, but is no more.
It may be attached to a new farm bill, but there might not be a farm bill. More likely than not the egg measure won't pass in this election year.
UEP and HSUS agreed to work together for the bill through June. They probably will keep going after that, building for next year.
UEP spokesman Mitch Head has said his group wants to continue working with HSUS for passage.
HSUS spokesman Paul Shapiro said it's too early to know, but that he can't imagine supporters won't want to continue if the bill appears to have a chance of passage.
The June deadline perhaps was set as a hammer on both sides to be serious about working for passage, give them time to measure each other's commitment and an opt-out if things unraveled.
"HSUS and UEP talk about a win-win. But UEP wins whether the federal bill passes or not," Miller said. "UEP is far ahead of the game compared to where they started."
Co-opting HSUS to "violate its own principles" and endorse larger cages that UEP has long sought was a shrewd move, in Miller's view.
UEP has moved HSUS off its prior position opposing cages and if the bill fails, HSUS will look contradictory at best going back to attacking the larger cages it had supported, Miller said.
UEP diffused its opposition, gaining HSUS support for larger cages and killing cage-free ballot initiatives in Washington and Oregon.
HSUS will be left with nothing, Miller said, other than a massive branding or publicity bonanza that put them in the limelight, made them look reasonable and helped HSUS President Wayne Pacelle market his book.
Miller doesn't view HSUS through totally objective eyes. He still says HSUS "misappropriated" $10,000 that HFA gave HSUS for the Washington initiative campaign. The money was not spent, and HFA asked for it back and didn't get it, he said.
Shapiro did not comment when asked about it in January but now says HFA gave money to Washingtonians for Humane Farming, not HSUS. Miller reiterates $10,000 was given to the HSUS campaign committee and that Pacelle informed him in writing of his decision not to return the money.
HSUS "betrayed" those in Washington who gathered 350,000 signatures for the ballot initiative, Miller said.
There are those, on the other side, who feel UEP betrayed them. Egg Farmers of America, the American Farm Bureau and national beef and pork organizations see the bill as a sellout opening the door to greater regulation of livestock farming.
But UEP President Gene Gregory, at the group's annual convention in Denver, said egg producers were in a no-win situation. They thought they had science on their side but emotion was winning at the ballot box. They made what they think is a pretty good deal -- for survival.