Stabenow backs off, but egg bill fight is not over

Senate Ag Committee chair Debbie Stabenow has apparently backed off on plans to incorporate the so-called “egg bill” into the Senate farm bill markup. 

But Colin Woodall, vice president of government affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, tells Brownfield that 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.”

The Senate Farm Bill markup is expected to take place this week.

AUDIO: Colin Woodall (8:14 MP3)

The market potential for cage-free eggs

A new report on the market potential for cage-free eggs predicts accelerated growth in cage-free egg sales and profits. 

The report was written by Oklahoma State University ag economics professors Dr. Jayson Lusk.  It is based on Lusk’s own research and his analysis of a consumer survey on egg buying practices commissioned by a group called the World Society for the Protection of Animals.   

In the report, Lusk examines consumers’ food purchasing behavior related to their level of knowledge of production methods and pricing structures and makes predictions on market-share trends for cage-free eggs.   

In this interview with Brownfield, Lusk discusses the mindset of consumers when it comes to animal welfare and the food products they are purchasing—issues that apply to other segments of the livestock industry as well.

AUDIO: Dr. Jayson Lusk (11:51 MP3)

Nebraska Farm Bureau criticizes Stabenow’s ‘egg bill’ plan

The president of Nebraska Farm Bureau says federal legislation dictating the size of cages for egg-laying hens—the so-called Egg Bill—“has no place in the Farm Bill”.

Steve Nelson says the fact that Senate Ag Committee chair Debbie Stabenow is reportedly proposing such a move is, in his words, “a slap in the face to American farm families”.  And he says to start the farm bill discussion with the egg measure threatens the prospects for passing the farm bill.

AUDIO: Steve Nelson (2:54 MP3)

A rebound in egg consumption

After five years of decline, egg consumption in the U.S. is showing signs of a comeback.

Back at the peak of the low-carb diet craze in 2006, each American consumed an average of 260 eggs annually.  But USDA livestock analyst Shayle Shagam says after that it was downhill, “dropping to about 248 eggs per person in 2011.”

So basically, each of us was eating a dozen fewer eggs than five years before.  However, Shagam says last year egg consumption ticked up a bit, to a little over 249 eggs person.  And for 2013?

“We’re looking at about 252 eggs per person,” Shagam says.

One reason for the egg rebound may be the record high prices for other protein sources, like beef, Shagam says.  “Given the price of meat proteins, eggs may be considered to be a fair alternative for addition to the protein diet.”

The USDA projects table egg production in the U.S. this year will increase about one percent compared to last year.

HSUS reportedly trying to stop Prop 2 lawsuit

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) reportedly has filed a motion to intervene and stop a lawsuit challenging Proposition 2, which regulates egg-laying hen cages in California. The lawsuit was filed in state court by the Association of California Egg Farmers.

According to the Sacramento Bee newspaper, the HSUS, the main backer of the proposition, says the egg farmers’ lawsuit is just another step to try and stop the “humane” measure that was approved by voters four years ago.

In their lawsuit, the egg farmers say Prop 2 is “unconstitutionally vague” adding they would not be able to modify their hen housing in time to comply with the measure’s January 1st, 2015 deadline.

Missouri, Iowa state legislators condemn ‘egg bill’

State legislators in Iowa and Missouri have filed parallel resolutions calling on the U.S. Congress to reject the so-called “egg bill.

That’s the bill that would set federal standards for the size of cages for egg-laying hens.

The Iowa resolution, HR 138, was introduced by state representative and House Majority Whip Erik Helland of Johnston.  The Missouri version was brought forward by state representative Jay Houghton of Martinsburg.

Both Helland and Houghton are critical of the Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) efforts to pass the egg bill.  Houghton says the bill would “open the door for the federal government and radical animal rights groups to interfere with our farmers and ranchers who are just trying to make a living and grow America’s food supply.”

Helland and Houghton are both part of a new coalition called Protect the Harvest.  The organization describes itself as “a coalition of farmers, ranchers and hunters dedicated to educating Americans about the growing threat posed by the radical animal rights fringe.”

Red meat and egg production up in Ohio

The Ohio field office of the National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) reports commercial red meat production in Ohio during February was up 4 percent from a year ago at 22.7 million pounds. Compared to February 2011 total live weight of cattle was 11.2 million pounds, up 6 percent, hogs showed a 4 percent increase to 21.2 million, sheep and lambs were 13 percent higher at 63 thousand pounds.

Nationwide, commercial red meat production totaled 3.91 billion pounds, up 3 percent from February 2011.

Ohio’s egg production during February totaled 596 million eggs, that was a 9 percent drop from January, but a 4 percent increase from 2011. During February there were almost 28 million layers on Ohio farms.

Egg production in the U.S. in February totaled 7.24 billion, a 3 percent increase from last year.

UEP head defends egg bill

The president and CEO of United Egg Producers (UEP), Gene Gregory, has  taken a lot of heat in recent months—mostly from other segments of animal agriculture—for UEP’s decision to compromise with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) on the issue of cage size for egg-laying hens. 

But Gregory continues to defend the compromise—and the so-called “egg bill” now pending in Congress—saying that federal standards are necessary to ensure the future survivability of the U.S. egg industry.

Many livestock organizations are still not convinced that HSUS can be trusted–but Gregory says, to this point, it’s been a good partnership.

“Our dealings with them through this process have been surprising to me.  It’s been far better than we dreamed it would be—and they have been excellent partners,” Gregory says. “So hopefully—hopefully—that will carry on.”

Can the egg bill make it through Congress?  Gregory acknowledges that opposition to the egg bill by the beef and pork industries is going to make it more difficult.

“Were it not for their lobbying efforts against us, we would have lots more co-sponsors.  So if we don’t pass the legislation, it will be primarily because of that livestock—or other agricultural opposition—I think.”

Gregory says they had originally hoped to see a vote on the egg bill by this summer, but admits that is not likely to happen in this election year.

Gregory’s comments came in an interview with Brownfield at the National Institute for Animal Agriculture conference in Denver.

AUDIO: Gene Gregory (9:08 MP3)


UEP chief on the ‘partnership’ with HSUS

The president and CEO of United Egg Producers (UEP), Gene Gregory, has received a lot of criticism in recent months—mostly from other segments of animal agriculture—for UEP’s decision to compromise with HSUS on the issue of cage size for egg-laying hens.  Gregory continues to defend the compromise—and the “egg bill” now pending in Congress—saying that national standards are necessary to ensure the future survivability of the U.S. egg industry.

At the NIAA conference in Denver, we asked Gregory about the partnership with HSUS, whether he thinks the animal rights group can be trusted, and the chances of getting the egg bill through Congress.

AUDIO: Gene Gregory (9:08 MP3)




AVMA exec board supports ‘egg bill’

The executive board of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has voted to support the controversial “egg bill” in Congress.

That legislation, which would require the U.S. egg industry to convert hen housing from conventional cage systems to colony cages by the end of 2029, would implement an agreement made between The Humane Society of the United States and United Egg Producers (UEP).

In an email to its stakeholders, the AVMA executive board says that despite having what it calls “significant concerns” with the creation of federal regulations on animal housing and management, the welfare of the animals was the most important factor behind its decision.

In a news release, UEP says it welcomes the AVMA’s endorsement of the legislation.   UEP says the legislation will provide a stable future for egg farmers and will allow America’s national egg sales and distribution system to be maintained, rather than being impacted by conflicting and competing state laws.