By: Will Coggin
Newspaper: Tallahassee Democrat

Given the polarized politics of the day, it’s appealing to see an egg group, the Florida Poultry Federation, and an animal-liberation and vegan activist, Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States, come together to promote compromise legislation to create regulations for egg farms. But consumers should recognize this legislation for what it really is: a Trojan horse.

The bill is the result of pressure applied to egg farmers in California, where in 2008 the Humane Society of the U.S. successfully pushed through a ballot initiative that experts predicted would destroy the state’s egg industry. Since California is a major egg-producing state, some egg farmers think a federal bill that preempts damaging California laws is the only way to help egg farmers. They aren’t willing participants any more than a hostage.

The bill would ban the most common form of hen housing in America (which protects hens from the elements and cannibalistic behaviors) and require farmers to make costly infrastructure changes. This would unquestionably raise costs for consumers at the grocery store who value eggs as an affordable source of protein.

Similar laws in Europe went into effect last year and resulted in supply shortages and a 60-percent price shock. Moreover, the bill would threaten smaller farmers who have less access to capital to make costly infrastructure changes.

Fundamentally, the bill is a federal power grab driven by anti-farmer elements. Presently, farmers and veterinarians are given flexibility to determine the safest and most humane way to house hens. This bill would take a common tool away from the professionals and stick the federal government into every hen house.

Creating federal regulations would allow the special interest animal liberation lobby an easy opportunity to badger egg farmers in the future. Imagine if farmers invest hundreds of millions of dollars into new hen houses, only to have animal rights activists tweak standards and bring the investments crumbling down.

Make no mistake: The animal liberation activists at the Humane Society of the United States and other groups aren’t looking out for egg farmers, or any other livestock farmers. They don’t want animals used for food. The food policy director of the Humane Society of the United States has compared farms to Nazi concentration camps. HSUS, which is not affiliated with any local humane societies or pet shelters, is run by PETA-type radicals who want to get rid of meat, eggs, and dairy.

The problem won’t be solved by federal egg regulations, which would only serve this incremental animal rights agenda. The solution is to have Californians reverse the law and consequences of listening to yet another wacky activist group.

After seeing that the 2008 ballot initiative would crush the Golden State’s egg industry, the state passed a law applying these regulations to out-of-state farms who want to sell eggs in California.

This is a clear overreach. Floridians wouldn’t want California to pass restrictive laws against orange growers, nor should they want to let California to pass onerous regulations against egg farmers.

An amendment to the Farm Bill, proposed by Iowa Rep. Steve King, would allow states like California to destroy their own industries (if they choose), but would prevent California from shoveling onerous regulations onto other states. This would hopefully give pause even to the voters in California the next time an activist group like HSUS proposes to destroy farmers or any other local industry.

The House version of the Farm Bill contained this amendment, and House members rejected the vegan activists’ attempt to increase egg costs for consumers nationally. But the bill died last week on the floor. The Senate version, which contains neither, is still alive.

What will happen is anyone’s guess. If the Farm Bill is kicked back until next year, expect the same battle lines to be drawn. If that’s the case, consumers and legislators will hopefully be one year the wiser in understanding that egg legislation that is being pushed by anti-egg vegan activists isn’t good for anyone except radical vegans in America.