A proposed bill that would mandate that only cage-free eggs be raised and sold in Maine is under consideration, and one government watchdog didn’t pull any punches when describing his opinions about it.

Jacob Posik, a Turner resident, is the director of communications at the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to freeing people from dependency, creating prosperity and redefining the role of government. Posik recently wrote an opinion piece published on the Maine Wire website.

In simple terms, he calls it both “ridiculous” and “absurd,” while asserting that state legislators are “wasting valuable time and taxpayer dollars” while considering it.

About the bill

Under consideration is Maine LD 2084, which was sponsored by Rep. Maggie O’Neil. The bill would call for the end of the production and sale of eggs from hens that were not raised in cage-free housing after December 31, 2024.

Violations of the bill, if approved, would result in a civil fine that would range from $500 to $5,000 per offense.

The bill has been criticized by some state legislators during a hearing on the matter, including Rep. Joshua Morris, who said it unfairly targets Hillandale Farms, which has operations in Turner. Sen. Jeffrey Timberlake expressed similar concerns. Both lawmakers also said the bill would drive up the prices of eggs in the state, and they questioned Maine consumers’ willingness to foot that extra costs.

The Maine Farm Bureau Association and the National Association of Egg Farmers also voiced opposition to the bill.

Stephen Vendemia, president of Hillandale Farms Conn. LLC, said despite its decision to transition its Maine operations to cage-free laying systems, the timeline set in the proposed bill is unrealistic.

Maine Heritage Policy Center’s take

In his opinion piece, Posik brings to attention the concerns of Morris and Timberlake, as well as the two agriculture organizations opposed to the bill.

He even mentioned comments from Timberlake, who in his testimony, stated: “The only reason this bill is before you is because Katie Hansberry from the Humane Society (of the United States) and Bill Bell from the Brown Egg Industry threatened Steve Vendemia of Hillandale, that if he did not support this bill that a referendum would be initiated in its place. If you pass this bill, you are signing a death certificate for [Hillandale] and all other surrounding farms.”

Posik not only takes exception to the bill itself, but also the fact that there are legislators that considered it an “emergency” bill. Using a blend of rational thinking and sarcasm, he brings his point home.

“Maine has a $232 million annual transportation funding shortfall. Nursing homes that care for our seniors are closing left and right because reimbursement rates are too low to keep up with a punishing minimum wage law. Thousands of disabled Mainers remain on waitlists for services under the Medicaid program. But worry not, because lawmakers are preparing to solve the most troubling issue of our time: the confinement of egg-laying hens,” Posik wrote.

“Despite the Maine Constitution clearly stating that an emergency bill is one “immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health or safety,” our legislature is actually wasting valuable time and taxpayer dollars considering this ridiculous bill.”

Posik is right

While I don’t live in Maine, I fully agree with Posik.

Cage-free egg laws have already been passed in a number of states, and that list could grow if the one in Maine is approved. But what is the point?

The egg industry is already transitioning toward cage-free production and hundreds of companies that source or sell eggs have signed pledges to eliminate cage-raised eggs. If those pledges are fulfilled, there will soon be few options for producers of cage-raised eggs. Shouldn’t that be sufficient for cage-free proponents?

Sadly, for some, it isn’t.

After animal rights groups made their pushes toward cage-free egg laws, state governments or voters have passed the referendums. Playing with people’s emotions about their perceptions of animal welfare are emphasized, while ignoring consumer pocketbooks have all seemed to be part of the ploy. As a result, uninformed decisions are made that really don’t benefit anybody.

Posik gets this. Hopefully lawmakers in Maine will, too.