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Friday, June 07, 2013

Take Action to Protect Egg-Laying Hens, State Laws

The Senate will likely conclude its consideration of the Farm Bill next week, and the House is likely to take up its Farm Bill within the next couple weeks, with a number of important animal welfare issues hanging in the balance. As the Bakersfield Californian wrote in an editorial today, lawmakers “should take a long, hard look at an amendment by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that might threaten the rights of states, California included, to enforce animal cruelty protections.”
 
HenThe newspaper noted that the language approved by the House Agriculture Committee “might strip states of their ability to apply their own animal protection laws, including those that address factory farm confinement, shark finning and horse slaughter,” adding that the “Senate version of the bill does not contain provisions that would threaten or invalidate state animal protection laws.” The paper urged that “Congress must carefully consider and weigh the impact on existing state laws, and to overrule any provisions that would unnecessarily invalidate the will of California voters or those of any state.”

The King amendment, if not extracted from the Farm Bill, could affect not only California but hundreds of state and local laws across the country—dealing with food safety, labeling, the environment, labor, and animal welfare. A number of state legislators are speaking out against this federal power grab. The provision is so vague it could result in expensive lawsuits over any law dealing with the manufacturing of an agricultural product. It’s a radical federal overreach, especially when there’s a much more narrow, reasonable, and workable solution ready for Congress to ratify: H.R. 1731/S. 820, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013.

Historically, when Congress preempts state laws—on car emissions, coal pollution, or other issues—it is in order to replace them with a uniform national standard, and that is the idea behind the egg bill. If there is a problem with interstate commerce caused by conflicting state laws, such as on the housing of egg-laying hens, it can be solved with a uniform national standard that provides regulatory certainty and is supported by the key stakeholders—the egg industry, veterinary groups, animal welfare groups, and consumer groups—as is H.R. 1731/S. 820. Rather than having a reasonable national standard, the King amendment proposes no standards at all, state or federal.

With House action soon to occur on the Farm Bill, it’s a critical time to contact your U.S. Representative at (202) 225-3121, or send an email. Tell them to nix the King amendment and its radical assault on state laws, and support the egg bill which provides a national solution to the problem of housing 280 million U.S. laying hens.

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