New California egg law riles chicken producers
The rule, going into effect next year, requires that eggs sold in the state come from hens with roomy cages. Now, 5 states are suing to block it.
Five states have joined a lawsuit challenging a California law that would require producers of all eggs sold in the Golden State to house hens in roomier cages.
Officials in those states, all of which have big agriculture sectors, argue the California law violates the principle of interstate commerce, enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. They say out-of-state farmers would have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to change their facilities to comply with the law.
Missouri's attorney general filed the suit against the California law last month. Officials representing Iowa, Nebraska, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Alabama joined it Wednesday.
The law, passed in 2010, would cover all egg producers selling in California, whether the hens are in state or out of state. The rules would go into effect next year.
"It's one thing for them to regulate their own egg producers, but when they regulate the egg producers of the other . . . states, including Iowa, I think it's a clear violation," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said in an interview Thursday.
The Republican signed on to the lawsuit on behalf of his state, along with attorneys general representing the other four states. The suit, filed in a U.S. district court in Fresno, seeks to declare the law invalid and block any enforcement. The states also aim to recover legal costs.
The plaintiffs note that California -- the nation's most populous state -- represents the biggest domestic market for eggs.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, intends to "vigorously defend" the law, a spokesman for her office said in a statement Thursday. "If this lawsuit is successful, it will limit the ability of voters in any state to enact laws they deem in their best interest," he said.
In 2008, California residents approved a ballot initiative that would ban farmers from housing egg-laying hens in enclosures that are too small for the birds to lie down, stand up or fully spread their wings. In 2010, state legislators passed a law extending the standards to all producers selling eggs in California.
Roughly eight in 10 egg-laying hens in the U.S. are raised under guidelines from the United Egg Producers, which include 67 to 86 square inches of floor space per bird and enough room for hens to stand "comfortably upright," according to the group, a cooperative that represents owners of about 95 percent of U.S. egg-laying hens. The California law seeks at least 116 square inches of space per bird for enclosures housing nine or more chickens.
Consumers can also buy "cage-free" eggs, laid by hens raised in open barns. According to the United Egg Producers, cage-free production accounts for more than 5 percent of laying hens.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, sued to block California's law on Feb. 3, saying it would hurt his state's egg producers, which sell about a third of their eggs in California. Missouri attorneys said in a court filing Thursday that farmers there would face the choice of spending $120 million combined to bring their henhouses into compliance or having to forgo sales in California.
Building larger enclosures for laying hens would mean hefty costs for producers, said Steve Boomsma, 53, co-owner of Centrum Valley Farms in Iowa, which ships about 720,000 dozen eggs a week to California. "But it's the field we're playing in," he said. "If that's what we have to do to sell eggs in California, we will do it."
The expansion of the lawsuit follows a failed effort by U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to add an amendment to the latest federal farm bill that would have banned states from setting mandatory standards for agricultural products sold within that state but produced in others. Congress passed the farm bill last month.
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NoDemorats ... being that you're all about "freedom" ... hopefully you realize that this isn't California telling other states what to do, It's California exercising their freedom to choose what products they care to purchase. If CA wants eggs from chickens kept in larger cages ... that's that's their perogative. If producers don't care to provide a qualified product - that's fine too. The market will sort itself out.
It's about damn time there's a lawsuit demanding that the animals we consume can be treated kindly before we chop them up into pieces for dinner. The farmers have the option to not sell their eggs to California.
I am constantly shocked by companies that argue over this sort of issue. Humane treatment of animals should not have to be regulated-it should be automatic. The fact that these companies treat their hens this way in the first place should be a violation. They claim it will cost them millions to comply. since when do they not pass on the cost of business to consumers?
It's time the FDA did it's job and protected consumers and the food we eat form big corporations.
First, California has every right to regulate what products it wants to be imported. If the other states don't want to sell their eggs to California, that is their business. They don't have the right to tell California what it can and cannot regulate for it's residents. This would violate the rights of any state to protect it's citizens.
And, if you think, that treating animals humanely, is liberal, than so be it. We, as humans, should be treating animals with respect, and not with cruelty. If being conservative means, treating animals with cruelty and no respect, than being conservative is another name for a lack of kindness, humanity, and compassion.
Sure it is costly to upgrade the facilities, but the cost will be past on to the consumer with an extra margin to make an even larger profit.
We, as consumers, will whine and complain about the rising cost and buy them anyway.
Then we will talk about the "Good old days," when eggs were cheap.
After all, it is the American way.
I only buy cage-free free-range eggs, locally produced. I don't care what the price is. The chickens need to be able to go outside in the sunshine when they want and have a nice life. I've been known to drive out to farms to check to be sure they're being properly cared for.
my grandmother's egg laying hens had a 30X40 foot enclosure and attached to that enclosure was a 15/30 nesting loft.
Those hens laid the biggest eggs, and of course you got pecked when you went to collect in the morning, but it was worth it! they were happy happy happy chickens. Some days you're the chicken if you stop laying, you become the dinner! All creatures deserve good treatment! If you want to pass on the price of making larger enclosures, go ahead, that's your right as the producer. On the flip side the consumer does to have to buy your eggs. hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm how much do we pay chickens now anyway?
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