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8 July 2012 - Ag Policy Makers Need Ag Education

It is always a challenge for agriculture to get its side of the story told through urban media, to reach the 98% of our population who are not involved in production agriculture, in other words, non-farm consumers. That is why, on Sunday, July 1st, I was thrilled when I turned to the Business Section of my Chicago Tribune and found an “Outside Opinion” editorial titled “Reasons for Ruffled Feathers”. It was contributed by Mike Doherty who is Senior Economist and Policy Analyst for the Illinois Farm Bureau.

He told the story very well on what is happening to European egg producers and consumers. According to Mike, it serves as a cautionary tale for the U. S. Let me share some of what he wrote and what appeared in the Sunday Chicago Tribune.

“Egg prices in Europe are 67% higher now than they were a year ago. Production is down by an estimated 15%. European restaurant owners and families are driving into neighboring countries to buy eggs. The situation there is not a result of runaway inflation, rather it was triggered by a government mandate on how chickens are raised.”

Congress is being asked to approve similar legislation here. Based on European’s concern for animal welfare, the European Agricultural Commission banned conventional caged housing systems for egg laying hens, systems backed by sound scientific research in use for decades and that, until recently, housed 75% of all laying hens world-wide and 95% of the layers in the U.S.

Mike Doherty goes on to write, “Since January, European producers have been required to house chickens in so-called ‘furnished cages’, or raise them cage-free. Because the decision was based on emotion rather than economics and science, Europe is facing sky-rocketing egg prices and extreme shortages. The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, currently being considered by Congress, would do the same thing in this country. It is already on the books in California and will take place there and they are expecting egg production in California to diminish sharply.”

Once again, I commend Mike for getting the story printed in a big-city newspaper and I hope a lot of consumers read it and have a better understanding of what it takes to put eggs on their table. I also join Mike in wondering why people with no agricultural background who have never worked on an egg farm have the power to change production methods based entirely on emotion and not science. Frankly, we can’t afford it, as producers, or consumers.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.