Sen. Feinstein, six co-sponsors introduce HSUS-UEP bill
By Sara Wyant
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WASHINGTON, May 24 - With Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., officially introducing her committee’s version of the 2012 Farm Bill, S. 3240, in the U.S. Senate this afternoon, it didn’t take long for Sen. Dianne Feinstein to introduce a measure that will likely be offered as an amendment.
Feinstein, D-Calif., has long been expected to offer a bill, supported by the Humane Society of the U.S. and the United Egg Producers, that would create a federal animal care standard for 280 million egg-laying hens.
Today Feinstein introduced S. 3239, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, along 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 cosponsors.
This measure is the Senate companion to H.R. 3798, introduced in January by Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Jeff Denham, R-Calif.
The Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers applauded the introduction which they say will “require egg producers to essentially double the space allotted per hen and make other important animal welfare improvements during a tiered phase-in period that allows farmers time to make the investments in better housing, with the assurance that all will face the same requirements by the end of the phase-in period.”
The legislation is strongly opposed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Pork Producers Council and other livestock groups who claim the legislation is unnecessary and could lead to costly federal standards for other types of livestock production.
However, the bill is supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Association of Avian Pathologists, Association of Avian Veterinarians, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Farm Sanctuary, Consumer Federation of America, National Consumers League, and state and regional agricultural and egg producer groups, including the Arkansas Egg Council, Association of California Egg Farmers, Colorado Egg Producers Association, Florida Poultry Association, Georgia Egg Association, Michigan Agri-Business Association, Michigan Allied Poultry Industries, New England Brown Egg Council, North Carolina Egg Association, Ohio Egg Processors Association, and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.
“This legislation will help ensure the American consumers continue to have a wide variety and uninterrupted supply of eggs at affordable prices,” said Gene Gregory, president of United Egg Producers, in a press statement. “Our industry is being endangered by the growing patchwork of differing and contradictory state laws and ballot initiatives that are impeding the free flow of interstate commerce in eggs that is so vital to grocers, restaurateurs, food manufacturers and consumers.”
“This legislation is a compromise between HSUS and UEP, with both organizations stretching themselves in order to find a solution that’s good for animal welfare, for the industry and for the nation as a whole. We have worked to forge a solution that provides a pathway for a dramatic advance for the welfare of animals in agriculture,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “There’s no reason for Congress to do anything but enthusiastically embrace this sort of problem-solving by the primary stakeholders.”
According the UEP and HSUS, The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 would:
• require conventional cages to be replaced during an ample phase-in period with new, enriched colony housing systems that provide each egg-laying hen nearly double the amount of current space;
• require that, after a phase-in period, all egg-laying hens be provided with environmental enrichments, such as perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas, that will allow hens to express natural behaviors;
• require labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs: “eggs from caged hens,” “eggs from hens in enriched cages,” “eggs from cage-free hens” and “eggs from free-range hens”;
• prohibit feed- or water-withdrawal molting to extend the laying cycle, a practice already prohibited by the United Egg Producers Certified program;
• require standards approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association for euthanasia of egg-laying hens;
• prohibit excessive ammonia levels in henhouses; and
• prohibit the transport and sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don’t meet these requirements.
If enacted, the proposal would require 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 a ballot initiative approved earlier by that state’s voters.) 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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