When American consumers go to the supermarket, they typically find a dozen eggs to be an affordable food choice. Eggs are an excellent and convenient protein source, and the average American will consume 247 (or 20 dozen) of them annually. Production and marketing of eggs is big business, but now egg producing farmers with new technologies and practices are coming under attack by animal right’s activists, led in part by the well-funded radical Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
HSUS has consistently and aggressively pushed their animal rights agendas on pet producers, agriculture businesses, and the food industry. Most recently they have been focusing on egg producers. The producers have countered by defending their industry and their efficiency in producing a quality and safe product at an affordable cost. Though still reasonably priced in most parts of our nation, egg prices in California have substantially increased this year as a result of new industry regulations there.
California boasts of having one of the nation’s leading economies as well as one of the top ones in the world. Within the agriculture community nationwide there have been mounting complaints against California, charging them with trying to regulate agriculture policy for not only their state but even beyond their borders. It is readily observed that the main driver behind many of the oppressive controls is HSUS. In recent years California has approved some 358 new farm-related regulations that many food producers and processors argue is an over-stepping of their authority. One of these issues is the California egg law.
In 2008, California passed Proposition 2, a ballot initiative that regulates the amount of space egg-laying hens must have. Then, in 2010, as a follow-up to this initiative, the California legislature passed AB 1437 that makes it mandatory for all eggs sold in their state, regardless of the state of origin, to meet the same state standards as the California producers are required to meet. Missouri contends that California’s Prop 2 and AB 1437 violate the Interstate Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution by preventing free trade among states. The Commerce Clause grants the U.S. Congress the power to regulate commerce between states, but individual states are prohibited from passing legislation that adversely or improperly impacts interstate commerce.
In March 2014 Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit, challenging the California egg laws. Since last March, five other states—Nebraska, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Iowa—have joined with Missouri in this lawsuit. Iowa is the top egg producer in the nation, but Missouri is second, producing 1.7 billion eggs annually. About one-third of our state’s production, or approximately 540 million eggs are shipped to California yearly.
Any state, including California, is free to regulate or even to over-regulate their own farmers and food processors, but they certainly do not have the right to control the other 49 states and their producers. Yet, in October of 2014, a California federal judge ruled against Missouri and the other five states, allowing the California egg laws to take effect January 1, 2015. As a result of allowing these laws to come into force, Missouri and the other five states are being adversely affected by not being able to sell their eggs on the California market.
California residents consume 9 billion eggs yearly, and they must import at least 2 – 3 billion of those eggs from other states, including Missouri. Unless states from which California is importing eggs conform to their state’s egg laws, these states will not be allowed to market eggs there. Obviously, this will have a substantial financial impact on egg producers outside of California. Furthermore, because of the California egg laws, egg prices there have taken a significant increase, with the wholesale price of eggs almost 300% higher now than it was a year ago. This makes the average price of a dozen jumbo eggs in California at $3.16.While the price of eggs in California is not our concern, their forced regulation on egg sales is.
If California is allowed to mandate that only certain eggs can be sold in their state, could it also demand that Missouri and other states meet the California requirements in producing additional commodities such as beef, milk, and pork? Laws that sensibly protect farm animals, consumers, and the people who work in agriculture related industries should meet federal standards uniformly governing all fifty states. Ironically, it hasn’t worked that way. Individual states have put in place their own health and welfare laws because the federal government has lagged far behind in setting uniform standards. Even so, individual states do not have the right to regulate interstate commerce or tell other states how they can produce or market their agricultural products, something California is doing at this time.
This coming week, I will file a House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) that condemns, in the strongest possible tone, California’s anti-trade action. The statement will call upon their legislature to repeal AB 1437, as well as to urge their state voters to reconsider and possibly repeal Proposition 2.