Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is standing up for all of agriculture in a lawsuit filed on Feb. 3, 2014. He claims California is violating the Commerce and Supremacy Clauses of the United States Constitution by forcing Missouri egg producers to follow California's rules on producing eggs.
You may recall California voters, at the insistence of a coalition of the Humane Society of the U.S., Sierra Club of California, Consumer Federation of America and Farm Sanctuary, passed Proposition 2 in 2008 (63.4% to 34.6%) which restricted production methods available to California egg farmers.
It is estimated by the University of California Davis branch that it would take at least $385 million in capital improvements for California egg farmers to comply with the Proposition. Proponents said the Proposition "…prevents animal cruelty, promotes food safety, supports family farmers, and protects the environment."
Proposition 2 is fairly simple. It requires California laying hens, in any enclosure, to have "…sufficient room for each hen to stand up, lie down, turn around freely, and fully extend their limbs." Egg farms in California generally keep 4-7 birds per cage, and they have approximately 67 square inches per bird. Proposition 2 bans the use of this size cage.
Proposition 2 did not require a specific amount of square inches per bird, but one report claims new cages must provide approximately 87-403 square inches per bird. California egg farmers and their supporters in the legislature cried "fowl." The farmers claimed they would be put out of business unless egg farmers in other states such as Indiana, Iowa and Missouri were required to build the same size enclosures.
California then passed a new law, AB 1437, which required egg farmers in other states to comply with California's requirements. California said it could control the flow of goods across its state lines based on the method of production.
Missouri's Attorney General had the common sense and good judgment to stand up for his state's producers and claimed Missouri's egg farmers would lose access to their largest market because 1/3 of all eggs produced in Missouri are exported to California.
Missouri farmers are the second largest exporter of shell eggs to California. Mr. Koster raises an excellent point in his complaint that Missouri farmers would have to build expensive new enclosures and that cost plus transportation would force many Missouri farmers out of business. What a relief it is to see an Attorney General stand up for his state's farm producers!
Related: Missouri AG Set To Sue California Over Egg Laws
Iowa, for example, is the number one exporter of shell eggs to California. Iowa's Attorney General took a pass on filing such a lawsuit. (I know because I asked the Attorney General's office to bring such a suit.)