Consumers can expect to pay even more for food at the grocery store and in restaurants if Congress adopts new legislation that over-regulates food production. The proposed legislation, HB 3798, was introduced on January 23, and would add to the 6 percent jump in grocery prices that consumers have suffered in the past year.
The proposed new legislation on egg production adopts the same concept as European government mandates that have already hurt consumers there by cutting egg production and driving up costs. At the same time, there has been no sign of higher food quality, improved animal welfare or other social benefits.
Dubbed the “Food Price Hike Bill,” the legislation is sponsored by Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon, along with several cosponsors. Keep Food Affordable (KFA), a coalition of agricultural and nutrition organizations, does not question the sponsor’s intention of ensuring that egg-laying chickens are given good care but is concerned that the real outcome will harm American families’ ability to purchase safe, nutritious food at affordable prices.
The proposed legislation would begin by over-regulating farmers who provide whole eggs to grocers, restaurant owners, bakers and others. It sets the stage for similar over-regulation of family farmers who provide meat, poultry, milk and dairy products for consumers. While animal rights activists say such over-regulation will benefit animals, the real outcome will be to harm American consumers who are still struggling with high unemployment and a tough economy.
Inevitably, the federal government would need to increase spending or divert current spending from food safety or other useful programs to enforce these counterproductive regulations. That would be a further blow to consumers.
Eggs are one of the least-expensive types of protein: A dozen eggs can feed a family of four for less than $1 per person. Eggs are also a key component of many prepared foods, from cookies to casseroles. Even a small spike in food prices will hurt every American, especially the 13 million who are wrestling with unemployment and millions more who face food insecurity.
The federal mandates in the “Food Price Hike Bill” would cost American egg farmers as much as $10 billion more, and those higher costs would drive up consumer prices. Similar mandates in European countries have forced egg farmers to increase their operating costs or go out of business. As a result, some countries are seeing 20 percent lower egg production. Across Europe, egg prices shot up nearly 8 percent in 2010-2011. American consumers do not need higher prices.
Family farmers recognize their ethical obligation to care for animals using standards developed by veterinarians and other experts. At the same time, they provide safe, wholesome and affordable food for consumers. The proposed federal mandate in HB 3798 is not just unnecessary, it is anti-consumer.
Consumers deserve affordable, high-quality food, and American farmers have invested millions of dollars to fund animal health and welfare research. Piling prescriptive, inflexible production mandates on family farmers will only add to those challenges. KFA urges members of Congress to consider the serious impact this bill will have on farming and the American consumer.