Iowa egg farm fire kills 150,000 hens

A Sunday evening fire at an egg farm in northern Iowa has killed 150-thousand hens.  No farm employees were injured. 

The fire at the Centrum Valley Farms’ operation in Galt began in a barn where 75-thousand hens were housed.  Smoke from the fire also killed 75-thousand hens in an adjacent barn. 

As of Monday afternoon, the cause of the fire remained under investigation.

HSUS criticizes, Heineman fires back

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is criticizing the effort to block California’s law dictating how eggs that enter that state are being produced.

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman addresses the media at the Governor's Ag Conference in Kearney

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman addresses the media at the Governor’s Ag Conference in Kearney

HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle accuses state officials of “political grandstanding” and “wasting taxpayer dollars,” He also accuses those states of “trying to force sub-standard products on California consumers”.  Pacelle says some studies show higher rates of Salmonella in caged facilities when compared to cage-free egg operations.

But Nebraska governor Dave Heineman, a frequent critic of HSUS, says Nebraska will not be intimidated by the animal rights organization.

“As I’ve told them on many occasions, ‘You want to come to Nebraska?  If you want to to fight—and we’re not asking for it—but if you want to fight, we’ll win that fight’.  And then I’ll go everywhere in America and explain how we did it—because too many other states have caved in to them,” says Heineman.

The governor says HSUS is anti-agriculture.

“They’re out to destroy the number one industry in this state.  We’re not going to let it happen in this state. It’s high time they started being honest with everybody about what they’re really all about.”

Five states, including Nebraska and Iowa, have joined Missouri in its lawsuit against California and its law that says all eggs entering California must be produced in accordance with California’s larger cage size standards for egg-laying hens.

AUDIO: Dave Heineman (:54 MP3)

Nebraska joins Missouri’s lawsuit against California

The state of Nebraska is joining Missouri’s lawsuit challenging California’s egg production standards. 

Specifically, that lawsuit seeks to block a California law requiring egg producers in other states to adhere to California’s larger cage size standards for egg-laying hens. 

Nebraska is not a major egg-producing state, ranking only 12th nationally.  But Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman says California’s actions create a precedent that could negatively impact all segments of the state’s agricultural industry. 

“This is about protecting Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers from the potential for regulatory burdens that hamper interstate trade,” Heineman says. “It’s not only about protecting our egg producers. This is also about the precedent this sets for our beef, swine and dairy producers.” 

Heineman and Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning held a news conference late Wednesday afternoon to discuss their decision to join the lawsuit against California.  Heineman used the occasion to once again lambast the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the driving force behind California’s Proposition 2 and the new law that is the focus of the lawsuit.  

““We have continually told HSUS that their anti-ag attacks are not welcome in Nebraska,” Heineman said. “That includes their attempts at creating overreaching, arbitrary, unconstitutional policy. Attorney General Bruning and I stand with agriculture and we will fight HSUS who wants to destroy agriculture in our state.” 

Here is an excerpt from the Heineman-Bruning news conference.

AUDIO: Excerpt from Heineman-Bruning news conference (5:11 MP3)

Iowa official predicts egg law challenge

Iowa secretary of agriculture Bill Northey says California’s law requiring other states to comply with California’s larger cage size requirements for egg-laying hens will not go unchallenged.

“This will be addressed—Iowa is not going to back down and say that California can tell Iowa producers what to produce out here,” Northey says. “California can tell California producers anything they want to about how they’re going to produce within their state.  But legal and safe eggs from Iowa—and right now about 30 percent of the eggs in California are coming from Iowa—need to be able to be allowed in California.”

Northey says that, as of next January 1st, Iowa eggs—if they’re not produced according to California’s standards—would not be allowed in California.   But Northey says that, oddly enough, California producers would not be held to that standard for another year.

“So it clearly discriminates—there will clearly be lawsuits,” Northey says. “Certainly Iowa as a state is likely to engage.  I think we’ll have Iowa producers, too.”

And Northey says the battle is not just about eggs.

“It’s a template to bring those kinds of laws from anyplace about anything,” he says. “So it could be about sow crates next.  It could be about GMOs, it could be about what herbicide is used on a farm.

“So there’s a lot at stake here—and even a lot at stake for folks outside of California and Iowa.”

Missouri’s attorney general has already filed a lawsuit alleging that California’s law violates the constitution’s commerce clause.

AUDIO: Bill Northey (2:04 MP3)

Dennis Morrice, KLEM Radio, Le Mars, Iowa contributed to this story.

Koster’s drafting Egg Bill lawsuit

The Attorney General of Missouri who is drafting a lawsuit against the state of California and its so-called egg bill says he’s willing to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. Chris Koster told participants at the Missouri Governor’s Ag Conference that not only is the federal government encroaching on the way farmers do their work, so are other states, “In an effort to protect California farmers from the market effects of their own agricultural policy the new law says that anyone who sells eggs in California must also comply with California’s new and costlier production methods as well.”

Koster is suing California in an effort to stop that encroachment, “This is a very important and interesting case. We may find success, we may not find success in this California case. It’s important that we at least try.”

Koster tells Brownfield Ag News that it is ALSO conceivable that the case goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, “It doesn’t only affect agricultural policy. It affects the automobile industry. It affects all sorts of industries that are important to this country outside of ag. So, it’s a vital case that we get an answer to.”

When Brownfield asked if other farm-state Attorneys General will join Koster in the lawsuit he said the chances of that are very good.

New egg facility locating in central Iowa

A new egg-producing operation is being built south of Hampton in Franklin County, Iowa.

According to the Waterloo Courier, the business—called The Good Eggs LLC –is a 20-million dollar capital investment that will create 46 new jobs.  It will be managed by the same people that currently run the Ham & Eggs production operation in Iowa Falls, but The Good Eggs LLC will be a separate business.

‘King amendment’ is part of House bill

The Farm Bill passed Wednesday night by the House Ag Committee includes the “Protect Interstate Commerce Act”, which would bar states from imposing their own animal-welfare standards on eggs, meat and other ag products brought in from other states.

The amendment is aimed at preventing farmers in other states from having to comply with measures such as California’s Prop 2 initiative that requires farms to provide more space to hens, hogs and other livestock. 

The amendment was introduced by Iowa Representative Steve King.

“I’m fine if California wants to say ‘if you’re going to bring an egg in here, it has to be egg-shaped—and if you want to bring some beef in here, it needs to be produced with the idea of the regulations of the USDA in mind’,” King said.  “But I’m not fine if California—and it isn’t just California, it’s other states–it’s a patchwork quilt of these issues and we need to draw the line now while we still can.”

California Representative Jim Costa objected to the amendment.

“Congress does not have the authority to regulate interstate commerce in a way that strips states—I believe—of their sovereign state authority,” Costa said. “In effect, it’s a federal takeover of a long-standing state’s internal legislative authority.”

The president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, warns that the King amendment could essentially “nullify” California’s Prop 2 and all state and local laws designed to protect farm animals.

AUDIO: Excerpts from House Ag Comm debate on King amendment (14:38 MP3)

‘King amendment’ gains approval from House Ag Committee

In Wednesday’s House Ag Committee Farm Bill markup session, Iowa Representative Steve King was successful in attaching his “Protect Interstate Commerce Act”, which would bar states from imposing their own animal-welfare standards on eggs, meat and other ag products brought in from other states.

The amendment is aimed at preventing farmers in other states from having to comply with measures such as California’s Prop 2 initiative that requires farms to provide more space to hens, hogs and other livestock.

Here are some excerpts from the debate that took place Wednesday evening.  Speakers include King, Rep. Jeff Denham of California, Rep. Jim Costa of California, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, as well as committee chair Frank Lucas.

AUDIO: Excerpts from House Ag Comm debate on King amendment (14:38 MP3)

‘Egg bill’ not part of Senate Farm Bill draft

The initial draft of the Senate Farm Bill, released on Thursday, does not include the so-called “egg bill” language dictating cage size for egg-laying hens. 

It confirms earlier speculation that Senate Ag Committee chair Debbie Stabenow would drop her plan to include the controversial provision in the farm bill markup. But National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) vice president of government affairs Colin Woodall expects it to come up again during the farm bill process.

The president of the United Egg Producers (UEP), Chad Gregory, has been highly critical of NCBA and other ag groups who are fighting against the egg bill.  But NCBA’s Woodall maintains the legislation sets “a dangerous precedent”.

“And in Washington, D.C., precedent is everything,” Woodall says. “So even though this is a deal between UEP and HSUS, HSUS didn’t make any deals with us or the pork producers or anybody else in livestock—and they will use that precedent to eventually come after all of us.”

UEP’s Gregory says the egg bill is critical to the egg industry’s survival.  Woodall argues federal legislation is not UEP’s only option.

“If this is really what the egg industry wants, then there are other mechanisms that they can use to push for adoption among their members—other than making Congress do the dirty work and force it upon their members,” Woodall says.

UEP represents farmers who produce nearly 90 percent of the eggs in the U.S.

Link to earlier story and interview with Colin Woodall

NCBA official: Egg bill fight not over

Even though Senate Ag Committee chair Debbie Stabenow has apparently backed off on plans to incorporate the so-called “egg bill” language into the Senate Farm Bill markup, Colin Woodall of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) says the battle is far from over. 

“Late word is the language has been removed,” Woodall says. “But now we are worried about an amendment situation where an amendment could be offered either during the committee markup of the farm bill, or possibly on the floor of the Senate, that would also try to get that agreement put back in.

“So even though we’ve had kind of a short-term victory, it looks like, we’re still prepared to fight this as we move forward with the Senate Farm Bill process.”

Woodall disagrees with arguments put forth by United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States that the egg bill only involves the egg industry.

“This sets a precedent of Congress dictating, or mandating, a production practice to all of us in livestock—and all of us in production agriculture—and that’s just unacceptable,” he says.

According to Woodall, who is vice president of government affairs for NCBA, the Senate Farm Bill markup is expected to take place this Thursday.

AUDIO: Colin Woodall (8:14 MP3)