A coalition of livestock and poultry organizations including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA); the National Pork Producers Council; the Egg Producers of America; the American Farm Bureau Federation; the American Sheep Industry Association; the National Farmers Union; the National Turkey Federation; and the National Milk Producers Federation, sent a letter urging Congress to “reject additional costly and unnecessary animal rights mandates proposed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).” NCBA Executive Director of Legislative Affairs Kristina Butts said legislation to mandate on-farm production practices, like the HSUS agreement with the United Egg Producers (UEP) would do, sets a dangerous precedent to allow the federal government to set prescriptive production practices.

“While the HSUS-UEP agreement currently only applies to egg production by amending the Egg Inspection Act, this legislation could create a very slippery slope to allow bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., to tell farmers and ranchers how to raise their animals. Cattlemen take their responsibility to care for their animals very seriously and for more than two decades have voluntarily participated in industry-led, science-based production practice programs and initiatives,” Butts said. “Beef industry programs, like the Beef Quality Assurance program, are based on practical experience and the most up-to-date science. They are updated regularly to ensure the use of the newest scientifically sound information and provide flexibility to meet the diversity of the industry. They should never be misconstrued as the basis for regulatory or government mandated production practices.”

The coalition pointed to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) as evidence that mandated prescriptive production practices are not in the best interest for promoting animal care. According to the letter, “OIE has recognized that prescriptive standards, such as those proposed, are not in the best interest of promoting true animal welfare because they cannot be adapted for different farming models and they hinder efficient modifications as new science becomes available.”

The letter also pointed to European egg production mandates that have resulted in increased production costs for producers and higher costs for consumers. In Germany, a 2010 enriched cage regulation has resulted in 20 percent less production. Meanwhile, in Britain, hen housing conversion has increased operating costs by as much as 8 percent.

“Ultimately, European animal housing requirements have cost consumers and farmers like. We respectfully contend that the European experience is not one American livestock farmers or consumers should want to replicate,” the coalition penned. “While our organizations continue to make considerable animal care investments with an eye toward continued animal welfare improvements, this proposal would stifle the industry for years to come.”