The timing couldn’t have been better for the United Egg Producers’ Legislative Board and Committee Meetings, held in late May in Washington, D.C. The cooperative’s members were in the nation’s capital to strategize and lobby Congress just a few weeks prior to the expected Farm Bill debate on the House floor. Proponents of the Egg Bill (H.R. 1731 and S. 820) hope to get this legislation added to the Farm Bill as an amendment during the Farm Bill debate, which is expected to begin the week of June 16.
Mike McLeod of McLeod, Watkinson & Miller, a law firm representing the United Egg Producers, said that the real battleground for the Egg Bill will be on the floor of the House of Representatives, because it is there that the influence of the Humane Society of the United States will be felt the most. Proponents of the Egg Bill will need to get two things accomplished on the House floor, according to McLeod: the so-called King amendment will need to be removed from the Farm Bill, and the Egg Bill amendment will need to be added.
The King amendment, which would not allow a state to restrict movement of agricultural products into the state from other states, was added to the Farm Bill as an amendment by the House Agriculture Committee. McLeod called the King amendment the “anti-Egg Bill,” but he said that some lawyers have espoused the position that the King amendment would be found to be unconstitutional if enacted and challenged in court.
If the King amendment is removed from the Farm Bill on the floor of the House, and the Egg Bill amendment is added, then the reconciliation process can result in the Egg Bill being part of the final Farm Bill legislation.
Continued effort needed
Chad Gregory, president and CEO, United Egg Producers, said, “I couldn’t be more proud of the egg industry with what we have tried to accomplish the last few months. We are not giving up; we are absolutely not giving up.”
After failing to get the Egg Bill added to as an amendment to the Farm Bill in the Senate Agriculture Committee as had been hoped, the focus of attention will shift to the floor of the House of Representatives. In spite of the setback in the Senate, Gregory said, "We are just as optimistic and positive as before that we can get this bill passed. We still think it is the right thing to do."
Congressman Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., 5th district, is a veterinarian and farmer who has been a sponsor of the Egg Bill in the 112th and 113th Congresses. Schrader complemented the egg industry on being willing to change, adapt and engage with the opposition. He said that industries that refuse to engage their adversaries won’t survive. "If you aren't setting the table, you are on the table,” he said.
Schrader told egg producers that they will need to continue to explain to their representatives in Congress why the Egg Bill is necessary. He said that this is not an either/or bill, bad for livestock and good for egg producers. “Explain that this is what you need and that it won't affect livestock,” Schrader said. “This isn’t about other livestock industries; this is about what you need to do your business.”
“You will need to explain that this is a well thought out agreement,” he said. “This will be a long battle.”
Schrader emphasized the importance of all egg producers getting involved and contacting their representatives. "This is your life's work," he said. "It will take all of your voices."
Educating new legislators
Jeff Denham, R-Calif., 10th district, told egg producers that he believes the Egg Bill “is the right thing to do nationally.” He explained that there has been tremendous turnover of members of the House in the last two elections, and that 60 percent of the members in his conference have been in Congress for less than four years. This provides egg producers an opportunity to educate these new members about the Egg Bill and let them know why this is so important for egg producers.
In answer to a question, Denham said that egg producers will need to explain to Republican representatives why a national standard is needed to overcome their possible predisposition against federal government intervention. He then said that the Humane Society of the United States can be instrumental in getting more support for the Egg Bill from Democrat representatives.