Senator Roberts: How
Will this Agreement Affect the Price of Eggs for Struggling Consumers?
July 26, 2012
Senator Roberts’ Opening Statement at Ag Hearing on Egg Products
At a hearing of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and
Forestry on the Egg Products Inspection Act, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts
(R-Kan.) said he was concerned the act would cause a dramatic
increase in the price of eggs for consumers already struggling in this
“At a time when stalled economic growth continues to force many families
to count every penny in their food budget, why would the federal
government want to drive up costs on one of staples of their diet,”
Roberts said. “I have very straight-forward concerns about this policy:
is it based on science? What will be the cost to producers and
consumers, and what impact will this have on our nutrition programs? Can
USDA implement it?”
The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, S. 3239, is
legislation introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) that regulates
the production of table eggs.
Senator Roberts is the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture
Committee. The following text is his opening statement as prepared for
“Madam Chairwoman, thank you for calling this hearing this morning
giving us an opportunity to hear directly from egg producers regarding a
bill that would—for the first time ever—put the federal government in
charge of the standards under which eggs are produced in this country.
“I also appreciate the chance to hear from my friend and colleague
“First, let me say that I firmly believe farmers and ranchers are good
stewards of the animals under their care. One of the fundamental
principles of the animal husbandry profession is that your animals get
fed, watered and taken care of for the night before you head to the
“There is absolutely no excuse for animal cruelty, particularly given
the multitude of training programs and educational efforts about animal
care and handling for those who work with and around animals. Producers
understand that the better they take care of their animals, the more
productive those animals will be.
“Second, let me say that Senator Feinstein and the egg producers of
California have a real challenge. There is no doubt that California’s
Proposition 2 has created uncertainty in the industry.
“But I’m not sure this ‘agreement’ between the United Egg Producers
marketing cooperative and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
is a solution that addresses the unintended consequences that we as
policy makers need to consider.
“When this committee considers any change in policy that will impact
animal agriculture, there are a wide range of factors that should be
taken into account—considerations like food safety, animal health and
welfare, the economics of food production, environmental issues, our
international trade obligations and most importantly—science.
“What is the best possible science available to govern the manner in
which our food supply is produced in this country…is this legislation
based on science?
“Put simply, when we deviate from science-based decisions, we end up
making the very problems we’re trying to resolve worse.
“If the science eventually says that a smaller cage is better, will this
alliance of producers and HSUS be back before this committee in a year
or two petitioning for a change in the law when the science changes?
“I also hope to learn why egg producers were solidly against any
agreement with HSUS before they were for it. What changed in the issue
to bring about such a reversal in their position?
“I understand that there are also class action lawsuits involving
anti-trust issues that are at the forefront of the many challenges egg
producers are dealing with right now. Is this agreement somehow viewed
as an escape hatch from those discussions?
“I wish we had USDA with us here this morning to explain how they would
actually enforce this agreement were it to ever become law.
“In addition to questions regarding the implications of this agreement
on interstate commerce and our international trade obligations, I’m very
concerned about how this agreement affects the price that consumers will
pay for eggs.
consumers are dealing with these challenges now. European consumers saw
their supply of eggs drop 10-15 percent soon after their government
implemented its version of this law—a decrease which lead to a 55
percent increase in the price of eggs.
“At the Federal level, this committee must examine what affects a
dramatic price increase like this would cause to our programs…like WIC
and SNAP. A 55 percent increase in egg prices would significantly reduce
the purchasing power of the recipients of these programs. Is this really
what we want?
“Madam Chairwoman, I have letters in opposition to this legislation from
the American Farm Bureau Federation, a group of four national veterinary
organizations, and a letter signed by 94 state and national
organizations representing egg, milk, sheep, wool, turkey, pork and beef
producers that I would like entered into the record.
“Madam Chairwoman, thank you and I look forward to this morning’s