Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and a half dozen other senators have proposed legislation setting a uniform national standard for the treatment of egg-laying hens, which would ensure egg producers aren't blocked from selling across state lines due to differing state standards.
Feinstein said on Thursday that six states already have their own standards, and 18 others could put their own rules in place soon, which could cause problems in the years ahead. She said beginning in 2015, for example, eggs produced in Iowa and Indiana will not be able to ship to California because they will not meet California's standards.
"Different standards in Michigan and Ohio will take effect later, further adding to the patchwork of regulations," she said. "As states with disparate standards continue to protect their own egg producers by banning the sale of eggs from States with lower or no standards, a complicated web of state laws will impair interstate commerce."
"The United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States worked for over a year to reach this compromise, and I believe it is one that strikes a very fair balance," she said. "Producers must enlarge cages for egg-laying hens and allow space for the birds to engage in natural behaviors such as nesting and perching."
Under the bill, producers would have as long as 18 years to meet these standards, which also includes a ban on starving chickens as a means of increasing egg production. In addition, it would prohibit excessive levels of ammonia in hen houses and require "humane euthanasia of spent hens."
Feinstein said the egg industry itself has asked Congress to approve this legislation to help it better cope with the increasing web of state standards.
"The egg industry brought this legislation to Congress and has asked us to help them implement the uniform regulations needed to survive and grow," she said. "The egg industry and the Humane Society are lock-step in their support for this bill. They are joined in endorsing the bill by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Consumer Federation of America."
The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), David Vitter (R-La.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).