Pork producers are speaking out against legislation that would give federal regulators the authority to mandate cage sizes for egg-laying hens. They’re worried it could lead to a slippery slope that increases red tape for farmers on a range of issues.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), would impose costs between $4 billion and $10 billion on farm production, according to industry estimates. The legislation requires conventional cages to be replaced with new colony housing for hens — about double their normal size.

Among the bill’s other requirements: All egg-laying hens would be provided with perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas, and all egg cartons would need to be labeled to inform consumers about the method of production. It also prohibits the transportation of eggs that don’t meet the bill’s requirements.

The NPPC has dubbed it the “Farm Takeover Bill” for giving the government control over how farmers raise egg-laying hens. The legislation is backed by the Humane Society of the United States and United Egg Producers — odd bedfellows whose agenda involves greater regulatory authority from the federal government.

Proponents of the bill claim the regulations would improve the lives of hundreds of millions of egg-laying hens.

“We are committed to working together for the good of the hens in our care and believe a national standard is far superior than a patchwork of state laws and regulations that would be cumbersome for our customers and confusing to consumers,” said Bob Krouse, chairman of UEP and an Indiana egg farmer.

Opponents, however, have said the regulations would stifle the egg production industry by creating a one-size-fits-all approach. Cost estimates range from $4 billion to $10 billion.

At this week’s Bloggers Briefing at Heritage, the NPPC’s Chris Wall outlined the implications of new federal regulations. He said it was inspired the Humane Society’s quest to create a national regulation on par with states such as California.

“It’s another example of California passing bad state policy and trying to turn it into bad federal policy,” Wall said. “If they are successful here, then you can strike out the word egg and insert any other commodity.”

Wall warned that farmers of all products should be aware of what’s at stake.

“These additional regulations keep people from coming back to the farm,” Wall said. “We’re next on their hit list. So if they’re successful with eggs then it will be the pork bill next, which is why we care.”