In 2012 and again in 2013, the United Egg Producers (UEP) attempted to have the Egg Bill, legislation based on the UEP’s hen welfare agreement with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), included as an amendment to the Farm Bill. When a new Farm Bill wasn’t passed in 2012, Chad Gregory, president and CEO, UEP, told the audience at the association’s Area 5 meeting in Atlanta that the process essentially had to start over again with the new Congress in 2013.

Gregory said that efforts to have the Egg Bill attached to the Farm Bill as an amendment to the Egg Products Inspection Act failed first in the Senate and later in the House, and that by mid-June of this year, “It was pretty much over.” But now, in late August, it is far from certain that a Farm Bill will be agreed upon by both houses of Congress by the end of the government’s fiscal year, which ends September 30. Gregory said that it is possible that Congress will pass another continuing resolution and that the work on a new Farm Bill will be pushed into 2014.

What happens next?

If the Farm Bill doesn’t pass in 2013, that means the King Amendment is not enacted, and this means that state laws regarding hen housing will impact out-of-state egg producers who wish to ship eggs to states with housing standards. January 1, 2015, is the implementation date for California’s Proposition 2, so decision time is rapidly approaching for producers who supply eggs to California.

The UEP’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the HSUS, which calls for both organizations to work to secure passage of the Egg Bill, is set to expire at the end of September of this year. Gregory said that the UEP and the HSUS have had some preliminary discussions regarding extending the agreement and that both groups expressed interest in an extension. Based on this, Gregory said that if a new Farm Bill isn’t adopted this year, the UEP might be back on Capitol Hill next year lobbying yet again for the Egg Bill. In addition, he said that even if the Farm Bill does pass this year, efforts might be made to find another piece of legislation to attach the Egg Bill to. He said that one congressional aide told him, “Great legislation never passes on the first round.”

Other Options

David Lathem, president, Lathem Farms, and UEP chairman, said that UEP members may need to go back and consider other options for transitioning hens out of conventional cages if efforts to pass the Egg Bill continue to be unsuccessful. Both Lathem and Gregory said that it is more important to be thorough in the search for a solution than it is quick. “We don’t have to be in a hurry to find answers; we need to take our time to find the right answers,” Lathem said.