Agricultural States are Cracking Away the California Egg Law

Farmers refuse to walk on egg shells

Due to the chain of events stemming from a California vote in 2008, a challenge was made to the US Supreme Court recently on behalf of thirteen states. Voters in California were in favor of fighting for the living conditions of hens that are bred to lay eggs for farmers. A law was passed in compliance to the vote to require all hens at least 116 square inches of room to stretch their limbs and lay down throughout the day.

The more than adequate space is almost double the size of the industry standard of 67 square inches. While the relatively new law appeared heartfelt and progressive to the movement of hen rights, the law was actually in response to a growing concern of salmonella. Regardless of whether the reason for the law was health related or animal activist related, the result is the damaged agricultural business both in California and within the states that import eggs to California.

Naturally, egg farmers in California were displeased with the new law, as they felt it negatively affected competition within the agricultural industry. As a result of this complaint, state legislators amended the law to refuse the importation of eggs from other states that did not conform to the California egg law. Any farmer wishing to import eggs to California must first enlarge the hens’ environment to the required 116 square inches of floor space. In 2012, about 5 billion eggs were produced in California and about 4 billion eggs were imported from other states.

The lawsuit, which was filed in late 2017, cites not only an effect on the individual farmers, but also a negative impact on egg consumers. Since January 2015, eggs have increased in price between 1.8 percent and 5.1 percent, with a recorded cost of $350 million to US households that buy eggs. The cost of producing eggs under the California law is burdensome to states and does not alleviate the unmerited war on salmonella.

The states involved in the lawsuit include Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. The states are asking the Supreme Court to hear the lawsuit without first going through the lower courts.