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Senate rejects egg industry reform in Farm Bill

POSTED June 19, 2012 8:32 p.m.

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday decided to exclude consideration of two animal welfare amendments and issues in the Farm Bill.  Senate leaders denied consideration of egg industry reform measures, requested by Senator Dianne Feinstein, and a bipartisan group of lawmakers, which would have phased out the use of barren battery cages, provided more space and enrichments of hens, and provided regulatory security for egg producers.

The United Egg Producers and The Humane Society of the United States worked out an agreement last July to seek a national standard by amending the four-decades-old Egg Products Inspection Act. This standard would be similar to the Proposition 2 law California voters passed in 2008 to increase cage sizes and living conditions for hens in egg-laying production facilities.

The Farm Bill has been a vehicle to consider some animal welfare policies, given that the U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees and enforces the Animal Welfare Act, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and other related statutes and regulations related to the care of animals. 

 “It is an outrageous subversion of the process for Senate leaders to deny any consideration of animal welfare issues in the Farm bill,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “Tens of millions of Americans care deeply about the welfare of animals, and this snub of that enormous and growing constituency and their denial of progress on critical policy reforms is unprecedented.”

The Farm bill is reauthorized every five years or so, and it deals with wide-ranging agricultural and food policies throughout the nation.

“For years, we’ve been lectured to work with the agricultural community, and we did just that by forging an agreement with the egg industry that provides stability and security for egg farmers that will last for many years. The Senate, bowing to special interests in other sectors of animal agribusiness, thumbed its nose at the process of compromise and reconciliation and now has put an agreement between all the major stakeholders at risk. Here’s a case of Congress acting on behalf of special interests and defying common sense,” added Pacelle.

If enacted, the proposal would have required egg producers to increase space per hen in a tiered phase-in, with the amount of space hens are given increasing, in intervals, over the next 15 to 18 years. Phase-in schedules are more rapid in California, consistent with Prop. 2.  

Currently, the majority of hens are each provided 67 square inches of space, with up to 50 million receiving just 48 square inches. The proposed phase-in would culminate with a minimum of 124 square inches of space for white hens and 144 for brown hens nationwide.

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