When the farm bill negotiators declined to include Rep. Steve King's amendment to the legislation on interstate commerce, the body that disdains judicial activism left it to the courts and the states to battle over California's controversial rules on housing egg-laying hens.
As the New York Times reported Tuesday, hens in California have got it better than hens in other states. Also, added to that, any eggs shipped from other states and sold in California are going to have to follow California's lead and offer their hens more space or those eggs can't be sold in the state.
King, a Republican, championed his provision because he argued California and other states were passing too many laws that restricted market access and impeded interstate commerce. Moreover, the egg law in California directly affected Iowa, which produces 14.5 billion eggs, nearly double the number of eggs of any other state in the country.
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Pressure from congressmen from both parties prompted the principal negotiators on the farm bill to eliminate the King provision from the final version of the farm bill passed last month.
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat, now has filed a lawsuit against California over the hen standards. It's interesting Missouri has taken the lead because 14 other states produce more eggs than Missouri. Yet, Koster makes the same case as King that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution prohibits states from regulating conduct outside its borders that place undue burdens on interstate commerce.
"California has placed restrictions on the sale or transfer of a commodity based on production methods that have nothing to do with the health or safety of California consumers," said Koster in a news release announcing the litigation last month. "If California legislators are permitted to mandate the size of chicken coops on Missouri farms, they may just as easily demand that Missouri soybeans be harvested by hand or that Missouri corn be transported by solar-powered trucks."
The NYT piece cited that Arkansas, Iowa and Nebraska are considering supporting Missouri's litigation.
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