Senator Mike Lee Fights Big Government Egg Cartel Campaign Against Small Businesses

The meddling hands of the federal government extend into even the most mundane aspects of American lives, most perniciously into our everyday food choices.  It's not appropriate for the government to pick winners and losers in business and it certainly is not appropriate for the government to limit the free choice of consumers regarding what food they eat.

Most big-government machinations to influence how and what you eat escape public scrutiny, but Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is requesting some sunlight on the "alleged anti-competitive campaign" against a small company by the government-supported American Egg Board.

Who is the American Egg Board (AEB) -- and did you even know we have a government-appointed board of big agra-business egg industry honchos?

The AEB explains on their website: "The American Egg Board connects America’s egg farmers with consumers, communicates the value of The incredible edible egg™ and receives funding from a national legislative checkoff on all egg production from companies with more than 75,000 hens in the continental United States. AEB's mission is to increase demand for eggs and egg products through research, education and promotion."

What interest does the government have regarding America's egg utilization such that the USDA is involved? The national egg checkoff program imposes a tax on egg producers to fund research and promotion of egg consumption. Federal guidelines prevent this money from being used for political purposes or influencing government policy or action. The USDA's Marketing Service (yes, the USDA has a marketing arm) conducts oversight of this program and also has guidelines that prevent funds from being used for the purpose of disparaging or depicting other products in a negative or unpleasant light.

The latest controversy surrounds the small company Hampton Creek which makes a product called "Just Mayo," which I must point out is not technically mayonnaise according to the FDA. The FDA defines mayonnaise as "an emulsion of vegetable oil, an acid like vinegar or lemon juice and an ingredient containing egg yolks" and since the product is vegan, it does not contain any eggs.  "Just Mayo" was warned by the FDA that the product cannot be called mayonnaise.

Below an email from the USDA's Egg Board about a possible FDA crackdown on a competitor. Joanne Ivy is the president/CEO of the USDA's Egg Board.

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Apparently, the government-supported AEB has directed a campaign to reduce marketplace demand for the "Just Mayo" product.  Let that sink in. The government may have helped run a campaign against the product of a small business in favor of big industrial corporate marketplace domination. 

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Senator Lee, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack calling for an investigation into some of the activities of the American Egg Board.

“Recent news reports have brought to light a series of emails, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, that contain compelling evidence that [American Egg Board] leadership, including the Egg Board’s President and CEO, may have violated the federal laws and administrative regulations governing checkoff programs,” the letter reads.