USAgNet - July 30, 2012
Consumer egg prices could double in many states if an amendment to the Egg Products Inspection Act isn't passed by Congress, egg farmers testified in a hearing before the Senate Committee on Agriculture last week. Officials says 45,000 egg-industry jobs in 24 states could soon be at risk they said if this
legislation isn't passed, allowing dozens of contradictory and unworkable state laws proscribing farm egg production standards to spring up instead.
Without legislation (S.3239), many states could soon mandate laws that are "inconsistent, contradictory and ultimately unworkable," said egg farmer Greg Herbruck from Michigan. Five states already have such contradictory laws which can cause confusion for consumers, retailers and farmers. Other states could
require farmers to only produce cage-free eggs, he said. Retail prices for cage-free eggs are double what regular eggs are, according to U.S.D.A. reports ($2.58 vs $1.28 per dozen) and only 5 percent of consumers buy them, according to United Egg Producers (UEP), a national trade association that represents
egg farmers who produce nearly 90 percent of eggs in the U.S. Such laws could jeopardize the entire U.S. egg industry, estimated to account for $6 billion in annual farm-level sales and 97,000 U.S. jobs.
David Lathem, a second-generation egg farmer from Georgia and chairman of UEP said, "The long-term viability of my family farm is in jeopardy without this legislation." He cited an Agralytica study that showed that the legislation would add less than two cents to the cost of a dozen eggs spread out over an
Eric Benson, an egg farmer from California, testified that a single, national standard was preferable to a patchwork quilt of competing state laws. The legislation (S.3239) provides egg-laying hens almost twice the space they currently have, plus provides a nesting area, perches and other enrichments. "This system
has higher production efficiency and better animal welfare as measured by animal mortality," he said.
The legislation is supported by UEP, which represents farmers who produce nearly 90 percent of U.S. eggs; hundreds of family farmers; most of the national animal welfare groups such as Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; major consumer
groups like Consumer Federation of America and National Consumers League; scientific groups like the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Association of Avian Veterinarians; and dozens of newspapers including the Chicago Tribune, Des Moines Register, New York Times, USA Today, Los
Angeles Times, and Philadelphia Inquirer.
The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein D-Calif. with Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Scott Brown, R-Mass., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., David Vitter, R-La. and Ron Wyden, D-Ore. as original co-sponsors and 16 overall co-sponsors in the Senate. A
companion bill H.R. 3798 was introduced in January by Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Jeff Denham, R-Calif. The House bill has 113 overall co-sponsors.