Letter to the Editor: UEP is right that fight is not over

Letter to the Editor: UEP is right that fight is not over

Dear Editor:

The Feb. 24 Feedstuffs article titled "UEP Abandons Egg Deal" outlined the current status of that situation.

The purpose of this letter is to offer enthusiastic congratulations to the egg producers not affiliated with the United Egg Producers (UEP), and other food animal commodity groups, on their victory in keeping federal legislation of table egg production out of the farm bill.

I understand that the legislation was jointly supported by UEP and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This legislation would have mandated enriched colony cages and specific management practices for table egg layers housed in cages. However, I have not seen any articles congratulating these food animal producers on their victory over the UEP/HSUS cooperative efforts.

I also have a couple of observations and questions on California's Proposition 2 legislation that was passed by voters in 2008. I have not seen an explanation of how passage of California's proposition — which created an unfair advantage for that state's egg producers through mandating a system considered not as economically viable as that used in other states — could ethically be used as leverage for federal legislation to mandate that all states follow the views of California voters.

Why is this not discussed? Or, why are federal legislation and regulations that presumably could be influenced by corporate animal activists and select industry personnel better than farmers reacting to true market demand (what consumers will actually pay)?

Also not mentioned in articles I have read is how this voter-approved Proposition 2 could be interpreted outside the narrow confines of the legislation to apparently override the wishes of California voters and allow cages if they are colony cages having a certain number of square inches per hen. Such a cage system does not prevent a hen from touching a flock mate or the enclosure if the hen stretches her wings, which, if I recall correctly, were key requirements of the voter-approved legislation.

It appears that the corporate animal activist industry is moving on to "plan B."

In a March 12 editorial in the Washington Post titled "Don't Count Those Chickens Yet," the author supported Congress stepping in "to establish more humane farming rules."

In the Feedstuffs article mentioned, Wayne Pacelle (HSUS president) is referenced to note that Congress can still move forward on proposed legislation.

I have not seen a response to the editorial nor a discussion of the ultimate goals of HSUS and the various societal and industry consequences of the food animal industries meeting these goals. Does the industry think that silence is golden and society should only hear one point of view? The "we don't want to provide credibility to animal rights groups" ship has sailed.

Just before I submitted this short congratulatory letter to Feedstuffs, someone sent me the link to a viewpoint authored recently by Chad Gregory, president and chief executive officer of UEP, titled, "UEP Says Industry Cooperation Essential."

It is an interesting article, but I found no statement that rejected the need for federal regulation of table egg production. The article was also interesting because Gregory focused on certainty and how today's industry found certainty imperative to providing food to society.

Is federal regulation of egg producers necessary for certainty? Certainty would be a luxury for any business, so do we need federal control over all of agriculture and business because there may be some uneven playing fields and uncertainty? Would federal regulation have allowed more than 200 egg companies to have survived the 40-plus years since consolidation began to eliminate many good farmers?

Rather than provide a lengthy discussion regarding the philosophy Gregory seems to espouse, I encourage you to read the article and draw your own conclusions. Recall that at one point in our history (I am old and grew up on a diversified farm that focused on table egg production and lived through the trauma of egg industry consolidation), farmers were independent and took calculated risks.

Today, we have control and certainty, evidently at all costs, as the mantra. And at one point, HSUS and friends bemoaned farmers being serfs on their own land as part of vertical integration.

Will federal regulations create the same situation for food animal producers today? Who will play the role of the evil vertical integrator of corporate activist lore? Who will be authorized to dictate proper use of others' resources at no risk to themselves?

Not everyone is pleased with restrictive California laws. Several states have filed a lawsuit in federal court to contest a 2010 California law that attempts to compensate for problems caused by their voters' approval of Proposition 2 in 2008. The 2010 law created greater certainty for in-state producers by leveling the playing field to prevent them from being disadvantaged by the 2008 decision. A better discussion of this controversy may be found in a March 26 Wall Street Journal article by Will Coggin, "California Flies the Constitutional Coop."

I agree with Gregory that food animal producers must cooperate and stand together. In my opinion, this cooperation should not create federal regulations but fight corporate animal activist control of food animal agriculture. How times have changed! That is certain.

Again, thanks to the non-UEP egg producers, other food animal commodity groups and others who fought to keep our farmers free to make management decisions based on true market demand. The fight is not over for any commodity group, and each day becomes more and more interesting.

 

Richard Reynnells

Laurel, Md.

Volume:86 Issue:14

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