The United Egg Producers and Humane Society of the United States are turning their focus to the U.S. House of Representatives after the Senate rejected the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 to the Farm Bill.
The amendments were based on H.R. 3798 and S. 3239, which are the legislative versions of the hen welfare agreement between the United Egg Producers and the Humane Society. Supporters of the hen welfare agreement still hope to get the legislation passed as part of the Farm Bill, and the action in the Senate is not entirely unexpected, according to United Egg Producers Executive Vice President Chad Gregory. “Under Senate procedures, it takes unanimous consent for any amendment to be debated by the Senate as part of a package of amendments to be voted on,” said Gregory. “This means that if one Senator objects to an amendment, it cannot be included in a package such as the set of farm bill amendments that the Senate considers. Senator [Dianne] Feinstein and other supporters fought valiantly to have our amendment considered, and we thank her and the other Senators for their efforts."
Both the United Egg Producers and the Humane Society say that this was just one possible avenue to get the hen welfare agreement passed. Their next step is to turn their efforts to the House of Representatives, where they have 81 sponsors and co-sponsors. “I knew enactment of this measure in the Congress would be no slam dunk," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. "But I did believe that a majority of lawmakers would embrace this good faith process of collaboration and problem solving between traditional adversaries. I thought they’d be eager to ratify an agreement that showed such demonstrable progress on animal welfare, yet also provided certainty and security for American egg producers.”
The hen welfare legislation could still be incorporated in the Farm Bill by the House of Representatives, and then it would just have to survive the reconciliation process between the House and Senate versions of the bill. “Now, we’ll see how the same issues play out in the House, and we will be working hard to get consideration of legislation on animal fighting and egg-laying hens on the House floor," said Pacelle. "It’s our hope that they let the debate proceed.”
According to Gregory, the legislation is critical to egg farmers' survival and there is no government cost associated with it. "It has the support of almost all of the animal protection groups in the U.S., the scientific community including the American Veterinary Medical Association, major consumer groups like the Consumer Federation of America and most importantly, the egg industry itself,” he said.