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Missouri Attorney General defends states’ sovereign, economic interestsMissouri Attorney General defends states’ sovereign, economic interests

California imposes its poultry cage rules on states hoping to sell to California consumers.

Gary Baise 1

April 3, 2018

4 Min Read

In requesting the U.S. Supreme Court to accept its complaint in the California cage size case, Missouri’s Attorney General states, “Unless this Court acts, California will continue to impose new agricultural regulations on other states in violation of federal law and those States’ sovereign, quasi-sovereign, and economic interests…”.

The Reply Brief filed on March 20, 2018, to the Supreme Court states, “California persistently ignores federal law in its regulation of extraterritorial agricultural production.” The brief also declares California’s effort to regulate the size of a cage for laying hens “…reflects one of several attempts by California to dictate the manner of agricultural production in other States…”  

California passed a Proposition, then legislation and regulations, which mandate that California egg producers and egg products in other states spend large amounts of capital to put in new cage systems for laying hens. We reported on this last December. California’s creative standards are required on other states if those states’ producers wish to sell eggs in California.

In a move which has infuriated the complaining states, California has the audacity of sending its enforcement officials into neighboring states to enforce its cage size statute and regulations.

The Attorneys General from Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin state they have “…a claim of seriousness and dignity between Sovereign States over which this Court [U.S. Supreme Court] has exclusive jurisdiction.” The complaining states are requesting the Court to hear this case between them and the state of California. The complaining States make it clear California has a history of ignoring federal statutes. (Violation of immigration laws comes to mind.) 

Against the constitution?

The complaining states believe California is violating the Constitution’s Commerce Clause and the federal Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA). The claim is California is imposing new standards of quality and conditions on how eggs are produced which are in addition to or different from Federal standards. California, of course, disputes that its law is preempted by the EPIA.

The complaining states declare “[T]he Commerce Clause forbids any law that discriminates against out-of-state producers and imposes burdens that outweigh putative local benefits.” California claims it has every right to require larger cages for hens because California has studies showing hens laying eggs in small cages produce more eggs with salmonella in them. Missouri’s Attorney General and his colleagues eviscerate that argument: “Studies also show that no causal link exists between salmonella contamination and conventional cage sizes.”

In fact, the evidence suggests exactly the opposite. The studies show that free range and cage free produced eggs “…have worse salmonella incidence.” Studies also show that diseases also increase in hens roaming cage free.

Bogus basis

Consequently, the basis California used for its legislation and regulation is bogus.

California is offending other states’ sovereignty by sending California inspectors into sovereign states to enforce its statute and regulation. California admits it is conducting cage size inspections in other states. On top of this, California “…collects labeling fees in all states that supply eggs to California.”

The complaining Attorneys General appear to be livid about California sending its officials into their states to inspect their egg producers. The Attorneys General brief requests the Supreme Court to act favorably on their Bill of Complaint. They believe because this case involves a dispute between states the U.S. Constitution provides only the Supreme Court with original jurisdiction over lawsuits arising between two or more states.  California officials, again not following the law, believe the Attorneys General should file their case in a federal district court. A U.S. Court of Appeals case declares “States cannot sue other states in federal district court.”

This case is not only important for production agriculture; it is critical. If California can dictate to other states’ egg producers how they house their chickens, the next steps are fairly clear: Hogs, cattle, and dairy cattle housing will be next. After that, the people who govern California will likely decide that they do not like GMO corn, soybeans, and I think you can imagine the rest of the story.

The Missouri Attorney General and his colleagues are standing up for production agriculture at a critical time. These Attorneys General need your support.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.

About the Author(s)

Gary Baise 1

Environmental Lawyer/Blogger

Gary H. Baise is an Illinois farmer and trial attorney at the law firm Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC specializing in agricultural and environmental trial issues in state and federal courts. He also serves as outside General Counsel for the U.S. Grains Council, Agricultural Retailers Association, National Sorghum Producers and counsel to the American Soybean Association.


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