The Iowa House has voted to require the state’s grocers to sell “conventional” eggs in addition to eggs that come from “free-range” or “cage free” operations. The requirement would be in force for stores that accept federal “Women, Infants and Children” or “WIC” food benefits.

“The egg is the most versatile, low-cost source of high-quality protein that we have and it is important that we ensure our most vulnerable citizens continue to have access to the best price and the lowest price they can for this commodity,” said Representative Bruce Bearinger, a Democrat from Oelwein.

The legislator who introduced the bill said he’s concerned about the pressure retailers are getting to sell only eggs that come from “cage free” operations. The bill as originally written would have simply forced Iowa grocers to always have conventional eggs for sale. It was adjusted, though, to link that requirement with participation in the WIC program. Bill backers say “conventional” eggs are significantly less expensive.

Representative Bruce Hunter, a Democrat from Des Moines, said the market should dictate policy for grocers who might find a way to sell “specialty” eggs at a competitive price “and have that opportunity to serve what they think is the best interest of their store and of their customers.”

Hunter’s view was in the minority. The bill passed the House on an 81-17 vote. Representative Jarad Klein, a Republican from Keota, said eggs “are a staple people need in their pantry” and the bill will ensure Iowans who’re getting WIC benefits can buy the least expensive eggs.

“I’m glad there are so many more people on board with free market and everything there, but there’s a reality. When you choose to participate in a government program, there are going to be strings attached,” Klein said. “And this is such a case.”

A similar bill is eligible for debate in the Iowa Senate.