Missouri's Attorney General Chris Koster is poised to take on the state of California in federal court over the law that requires any eggs sold in the state to be raised under California's human-treatment standards for egg-laying hens.
Speaking at the Missouri Governor's Conference on Agriculture in Kansas City today, Koster told the group of agriculture industry leaders and state farmers that lawmakers in California should not be able to dictate Missouri egg production methods. "In essence," Koster said, "California is attempting to nationalize its agricultural policy."
Law would increase production costs and egg prices
Koster took aim at the law, which grew out of California's Proposition 2, calling it "costly." That measure passed by voters in 2008, requires that egg-laying hens be housed in cages large enough to spread their wings. "If Missouri egg producers want to continue selling their eggs in California they will have to retool their operations here at home incurring as much as 20% in additional production cost and dramatically increasing the price of eggs even in our own state."
If egg producers choose not to comply with the law, they will not be given access to California's vibrant egg-consuming base. California is the largest importer of eggs. Koster says the denial into that market will create an influx in Missouri eggs driving down prices for farmer.
"When California passes legislation that limits Missouri business, whether they do it intentionally or not, it is my job to fight against them," he added.
What's at stake
At stake, he says, is whether elected officials in one state may regulate the rights of citizens in another state that cannot vote them out of office. "I don't believe voters in California should be able to set agriculture policy for Missouri," Koster said. "The production practices of Missouri farmers and the regulation of Missouri farmland is Missouri's prerogative."
So, Koster's office is prepared to sue California in federal court for violating the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, the portion of the constitution that regulates trade between states. "The principal we are pursuing is that the people affected by government policy must have a say in electing those that set that policy."
Koster said it is his job to fight for Missouri farm families and the state's agriculture industry. He said California does not have the right to stop eggs at its borders.