For Dave Radlo, the egg controversy is personal

So when he says we are weeks away from a preventable disaster, I listened.

“New England used to be about meeting the city – we would discuss things until 11:30 p.m.,” he said thoughtfully. “Now we are in this place of intransigence where it is considered weak to be able to make a deal and get along. “

The unfolding problem was predictable, although it took a while to come.

In 2018, Massachusetts voters overwhelmingly approved a voting question that was sold as a measure to provide more humane treatment of chickens. Under the law – which will come into force on January 1 – only eggs produced in the larger cage statutory standard can be legally sold in Massachusetts.

It will not affect locally produced eggs, as the standard is already followed here. But that only covers a small percentage of the eggs in our markets.

Almost all eggs produced elsewhere will be illegal for sale. This means that we can expect plenty of sterile shelves soon – and at the same time higher prices.

The question has never really been whether to treat cattle humane, because everyone is in favor. The question is rather to know how, precisely, to define the human being. This is where Massachusetts became an outlier, as our law requires hens to be housed in areas slightly larger than other state laws require.

The egg debate is certainly unusual for Beacon Hill, where agricultural controversies are rare. There was no shortage of bad jokes and puns. But running out of eggs, one of the most common things people eat, won’t be particularly funny. Playing with breakfast is, to say the least, very bad policy.

There is a fix available here. The legislature should pass a law amending the existing law. But because the House and Senate only meet in informal sessions, it should pass unanimously.

Again, this can be done, but only if lawmakers crack (sorry).

Radlo, the egg farmer, believes we would never have reached this dismal state if industry trading groups – in particular, the Massachusetts Farm Bureau – had been pushing to resolve this crisis before the 11th hour, knowing since the referendum that it was an imminent threat. crisis.

It is quite clear that this problem should have arisen earlier. But I think it’s also a graphic illustration of the pitfalls of law-making at the ballot box. The issues are discussed in broad outline, but nuances and potential issues are systematically dismissed or left to be dealt with later.

Sometimes everything works out. In other cases, like this one, “later” actually comes. Everyone who voted for it wanted to, but the details really matter.

Radlo sold his business – best known for the “Eggland’s Best” cage-free eggs you see in supermarkets – in 2013. But he has remained a voice in the industry, working in trade groups. It’s in his blood.

Radlo is also the author of a new book – “Secret Stories of Leadership, Growth, and Innovation – Sustainable Transformation for a Safer, New, and Better World” – which seeks to apply the lessons of his career more broadly.

The most frustrating part of the deadlock is that there is so little substantive disagreement. Yet here we are, with no resolution.

“The goal here is to have human and affordable food,” Radlo said. “Nobody wants a disruption of the food supply.”

He’s right about that. What most of us want are eggs on the shelves, produced in a way we don’t have to feel bad about. Surely there is a reasonable path to this end. But lawmakers are running out of time to find it.

Adrian Walker is a columnist for The Globe. He can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @Adrian_Walker.

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