The U.S. Senate has dropped a controversial amendment from its version of the 2012 Farm Bill that would have mandated cage size for egg-laying hens. The action took place Tuesday as the Senate began deliberations on the remaining 73 amendments to the new farm bill.
The amendment, sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was the result of an agreement between the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and United Egg Producers. According to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), if passed, the legislation would set a dangerous precedent for allowing federal bureaucrats to regulate on-farm production practices.
A NPPC official quickly lauded the Senate action. "The Senate spoke loud and clear and said no to an unfunded government mandate on farmers," said NPPC President R.C. Hunt, a pork producer from Wilson, N.C. "But this fight is far from over. The Farm Bill soon will go to the House, so it is imperative that farmers across the nation tell their representatives to reject the egg bill."
Another amendment that fell from consideration would have made commodity checkoff programs voluntary. Both amendments were strongly opposed by NPPC.
In all, Senate negotiators slashed the number of amendments that had been tacked onto the new farm bill from about 300 to 73.
Another proposed amendment stripped from the bill, introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, would have prohibited packers from owning, managing or controlling livestock more than seven days prior to slaughter. The language would have jeopardized value-added programs and other alternative marketing arrangements.
If passed by the Senate, the 2012 Farm Bill, known officially as The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, would require aligning with the House version of the bill which has yet to be offered. With election-year politics and budget-cutting pressures, analysts say the odds are slim Congress will enact a new farm law before the current one expires on Sept. 30, according to Reuters.
The Senate bill as written would cut $4 billion from the food stamp program but Republicans are looking for larger reductions. The Senate version of the bill also would cut crop subsidies by $13 billion over 10 years and environmental conservation by $6 billion.