Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a law last Friday that will require eggs sold in the state, whether they come from commercial flocks in Oregon or are produced elsewhere, to come from cage-free hens beginning in 2024. California and Washington State already have similar laws.
California’s animal welfare regulations, among the strictest in the nation, have spawned a series of court challenges. This week, those regulations became part of the farm bill debate. No paywall
Eleven months into the Trump administration, the Agriculture Department decided it lacks statutory authority to implement the livestock welfare rules that is wrote for organic farmers, and will announce today that it is killing the regulation. Groups representing conventional agriculture cheered the decision, which was disclosed at the end of last week, while the organic industry and its allies in Congress said USDA disregarded public sentiment and "could damage a marketplace that is giving American farmers a profitable alternative."
Thirteen agricultural states filed suit in U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of overturning a Massachusetts law that effectively bans the sale of eggs, pork, and veal produced by farms that use “battery” cages for hens, sow crates in hog operations, and veal-calf stalls.
In a challenge to the Trump administration's drive to erase Obama-era regulations, the organic food industry accused USDA of unlawfully delaying animal welfare rules that give livestock on organic farms more elbow room than allowed at conventional operations. Livestock groups and their allies in Congress have alternated between ridiculing the organic livestock rule and trying to scrap it.
The National Pork Producers Council, representing conventional agriculture, called on Congress and the incoming Trump administration to overturn a new USDA animal-welfare rule for organic farms, a small part of U.S. food production. House Agriculture Committee chairman Michael Conaway said he hoped Trump officials "will immediately withdraw this rule but stand ready with my colleagues on the Hill to roll back the regulation if necessary."
The farm lobby has a reputation for punching above its weight when it comes to federal policy, while the beverage industry usually has prevailed easily in arguments over soda taxes. Their winning records will be tested in Tuesday's general election, when polls suggest agricultural groups will lose referendums in Massachusetts and Oklahoma.
Half-a-dozen farm, retail and agribusiness groups say a voter initiative in Massachusetts on animal welfare will drive up production costs and equate to an indirect food tax. The proposal, which had more than 2-to-1 support in a recent opinion poll, would end the use of sow crates, veal calf stalls and battery cages for egg-laying hens.
One result of the USDA's proposed livestock-welfare rule for organic farmers would be the eventual end of confinement-style egg production, because it says poultry must be given access to outdoor yards. A powerhouse group of 13 senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the leaders of the Agriculture Committee says the rule could affect egg prices at the grocery store and drive up costs for producers.