Monique Nadeau, Minot
With all the divisive battles and partisan bickering in Washington, here is something positive that all the major stakeholders agree on: S. 820 will improve the treatment of egg-laying hens, and providing a stable and secure future for egg farmers. That's why the bill is supported by animal welfare groups, the egg industry, veterinarians, and consumers.
Most egg-laying hens are currently crammed into such small cages that they can barely move an inch for their entire lives. This legislation will require larger enriched colony cages which provide each hen with about twice as much space, as well as nesting areas, perches, and scratch pads so they can engage in more natural behaviors. It will also ban inhumane practices such as forced starvation molting, and require labels on egg cartons so consumers have more information about the conditions in which hens were raised.
Egg producers would have an ample phase-in period to transition to new housing systems, much of which can be done in the normal process of replacing aged equipment, and they would have a single national standard and a level playing field rather than the current patchwork of conflicting state laws. And consumers will barely notice the difference in egg prices, since a recent economic study found that the changes would result in less than 2 cents more per dozen eggs, and only years into the future, much less than the normal fluctuations in the egg market due to energy, feed, and other costs.
This legislation is a win-win for all parties involved, and you don't see that very often in Washington. Senators Heidi Heitkamp and John Hoeven both serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and they should support this bill which is good for the egg industry, good for the economy, good for jobs, and good for animals.