A dozen states are banding together to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block a California law requiring any eggs sold there to come from hens that have space to stretch out in their cages.
Missouri Atty. Gen. Josh Hawley said Monday that he plans to file a lawsuit on behalf of the states alleging that since California’s law took effect in 2015, it has cost consumers nationwide up to $350 million annually because of higher egg prices. The suit argues that California’s requirements violate the U.S. Constitution’s interstate commerce clause and are preempted by federal law.
A federal appeals court panel rejected similar claims last year in a separate case brought by six states, ruling that they failed to show California’s law would affect more than just individual farmers. The latest lawsuit seeks to address that by citing an economic analysis of the California law. It also asks the Supreme Court to take up the case directly instead of requiring that it first move through the lower courts.
Hawley, a Republican who is running for U.S. Senate in 2018, is leading the lawsuit. Other plaintiff states are Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin. All have Republican attorneys general except Iowa, which has a Democrat.
The California attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
California produced about 5 billion eggs and imported an additional 4 billion from other states in 2012, according to the lawsuit. Of those out-of-state eggs, 30% came from Iowa, the nation’s top egg producer. About 13% came from Missouri, the second-highest percentage cited in the lawsuit.
The number of eggs produced in California dropped to 3.5 billion last year despite rising nationally, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Missouri’s egg production was up 60% since 2012, at 3.2 billion last year.
Hawley said in a statement that California’s egg law is “a clear attempt by big-government proponents to impose job-killing regulations” on other states.
California voters approved a ballot initiative in 2008 that requires that hens in cages spend most of their day in spaces large enough that they can lie down, stand up, turn around and fully extend their limbs. The measure gave farmers until 2015 to comply.
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