Several farmers have received an email asking that they endorse HR 3798. This bill was developed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers (UEP). HR 3798 requires larger cages for laying hens and so-called “enriched” environments, limits the amount of ammonia in the hen houses, and prohibits forced moulting through starvation. The provisions would be phased in over a 15-year period.
FARFA neither opposes nor endorses this bill at this time, but we are concerned that the email omits several facts that farmers should be aware of:
1) As stated in the email, there is an exemption for small producers. But it covers only those who handle eggs solely from a single flock of 3,000 birds or fewer. Thus, if small farmers work together to create a joint brand for marketing purposes, they will not be exempt from the bill no matter how small their individual flocks are.
2) The bill requires that all eggs from covered flocks be labeled as either “eggs from free-range hens,” “eggs from cage-free hens,” “eggs from enriched cages,” or “eggs from caged hens. There is no option for labeling the eggs as “pastured.”
3) The bill requires that hens in covered flocks be euthanized using methods approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association. It is unclear from the language if on-farm slaughter will be allowed.
4) HR 3798 will pre-empt all state and local laws that attempt to create different or higher standards for the living conditions for laying hens.
Again, FARFA is not endorsing or opposing HR 3798 at this time. We are concerned that the provisions could adversely impact small farmers and pastured producers who are selling into wholesale markets, and are hoping that these issues will be addressed before the bill moves forward.