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Web letter by Ron Truex: Egg producers seeking common standard through legislation

I am glad to see The Journal Gazette covering the egg industry’s efforts to obtain a national standard for egg production, but any reader who is not an egg farmer might have been a little confused by the article “Egg plan hatches debate” (April 1). As an egg farmer and United Egg Producers member, I’ve been very involved in this process. Let me try to clear up a couple of points.

Roger Hadley’s quotes make it sound as if we are trying to get chickens out of cages. That is not true. The legislation we are supporting provides a transition to enriched cages – larger structures with more room for the birds, but still cages. There is such a thing as cage-free and free-range egg production, and eggs produced by these methods are indeed more expensive than regular eggs, but that is not what the egg bill is about. It only deals with caged egg production.

Hadley also claims that prices “could more than double.” He cites no evidence for this statement, and as far as I know there is none.

Producers will certainly incur investment costs to install enriched cages, but under the legislation, that will occur over an 18-year phase-in period. The long transition, and the fact that many buildings and equipment would have to be replaced eventually, even without the legislation, mean that incremental costs will be modest in comparison to total consumer spending. Frankly, consumer prices for eggs will be affected more by federal food safety regulations, environmental restrictions and ethanol mandates than by this legislation.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Ask the Consumer Federation of America and the National Consumers League, both of which have endorsed the bill.

Speaking of endorsements, our legislation also has the support of the American Veterinary Medical Association for the reason that it is based on science and the humane treatment of animals in an economically sustainable way. It is about keeping farmers in business. Without this legislation, the egg industry in Indiana and other states will look very different in a few years and not in a good way for consumers or producers.

We are simply seeking a uniform national standard for egg production in the same way that the pork and beef industries have always insisted on a uniform national standard for meat inspection. In fact, the Supreme Court just upheld its position on meat inspection a few weeks ago.

Our legislative proposals set no precedents for pork and beef since eggs have always been regulated differently from other animal products. Livestock and poultry are not one-size-fits-all industries. Eggs are regulated by the FDA, but pork and beef are not. Dairy farmers have price supports, but egg and cattle producers do not. What’s sauce for the goose may be sauce for the gander but not necessarily for the chicken or the pig.

Instead of worrying about theoretical, hypothetical precedents and slippery slopes, it would be nice if our fellow farmers would help us try to survive in an era of rapidly multiplying, mutually inconsistent, unworkable state laws that will increasingly hamper interstate trade in eggs and put many farmers out of business if we don’t do something about them. The proposed legislation is an actual solution, but some people seem to prefer problems instead.

RON TRUEX

General manager

Creighton Brothers LLC

Atwood

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