The egg bill, federal legislation that would ban the most common form of hen housing used in the United States, has been reintroduced in Congress. It is backed by the Humane Society of United States and the United Egg Producers, a trade group. And it appears that its odds this year are once again slim, as the bill was not included by its Senate co-sponsor during markup of the farm bill.
The problem is that the egg bill is a capitulation to bullying from HSUS and other animal liberation activists that sets up egg farmers for future troubles. The proposal would, among other things, set a federal standard of 124 square inches for a hen—something that the UEP has admitted is not based in science. To that end, we came across an amusing “Rotten Egg Bill” video on YouTube the other day that parodies a UEP video in favor of the egg bill.
UEP claims that this provides economic security, but what’s to stop further tinkering of regulations in the future? If you were an animal liberation group like HSUS or PETA, and hell-bent on putting egg farmers out of business, you might bide your time and slip in something that changed this law—say, a small change from 124 square inches to 150 square inches. That seems minor, but it would have a big effect on farms. Congress is full of backroom deal-making, and establishing a federal regulation that’s so specific is asking for trouble—especially when the specifics are not science-based, but a political compromise.
Elsewhere, HSUS is up in arms over an amendment from Iowa Rep. Steve King that would protect interstate commerce. Remember how California passed a ban on certain egg-laying hen housing a few years ago via Proposition 2? Not long thereafter, California passed a state law saying that anybody selling eggs in the state had to comply with the same standards.
Supporters of the King amendment argue that this is tantamount to California passing regulations that create mandates on farmers in other states. We’ll let the lawyers haggle over the Constitutional issues, but HSUS’s argument is hypocritical. HSUS criticizes King for trying to impose a federal mandate on states (which is arguable, since the purpose is to stop states from interfering with other states). Yet the egg bill, which HSUS supports, is a federal mandate on states.
The King amendment is up for a vote today. We’ll keep you posted with the results.
UPDATE: The King amendment passed by a voice vote.