OSAGE BEACH, MO. December 9, 2013 – Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced that his office is preparing to sue the state of California because of the state’s new law which sets standards requiring more space for all egg-laying hens. The standards apply to all eggs produced within the state as well as eggs produced in any other states but sold in California.

“I don’t believe voters in California should be able to set agricultural policy in Missouri, so my office is preparing to sue California in federal court,” Koster told members of the Missouri Farm Bureau during their annual meeting today. Koster plans to file the lawsuit early in 2014, based on what he views is a violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which regulates trade between the States. 

“No one has attempted a case quite like this before, but the California legislature has left us with no choice,” the Missouri Democrat added.

His announcement comes just as House and Senate conferees are trying to decide whether to retain a farm bill amendment by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, in the final farm bill conference report. King’s amendment would also deny California the chance to set standards for livestock production in other states. Called the “Protect Interstate Commerce Act,” it’s a hotly debated topic nationwide, with strong opposition from the Humane Society of the U.S. But in Missouri’s farm country, several other groups are rallying members to support the PICA amendment.

Koster said that normally, California’s new animal protection standards for all egg-laying hens in that state, “should be good news for us, since Missouri eggs could then be sold at a much lower price in California than eggs produced in that state. 

“But California’s new law goes further than just protecting chickens—it’s also intended to advantage California farmers,” he added. “The new law says that anyone who sells eggs in California must house their own hens in accordance with California’s animal protection standards—even if those animals are raised here in Missouri.” 

Koster said that, in essence, “California is attempting to nationalize its animal protection standards. 

California’s new requirements followed passage of a ballot initiative, advocated largely by the Humane Society of the U.S. and other animal rights groups.

“If Missouri egg producers want to continue selling their eggs in California, they will have to retool their operations here in Missouri, and that will raise the cost of eggs in our state and across the nation,” Koster told the crowd of about 1,000 Missouri Farm Bureau members.

On Tuesday Missouri Farm Bureau delegates supported the following resolution: We support the Missouri Attorney General's legal challenge to California's state law prohibiting the sale of eggs from out-of-state that are not produced in compliance with production standards that are as strict as California's.

Last year, Missouri ranked 15th in the number of egg-laying hens, with 7.2 million– far behind Iowa, the number one egg producer, with over 52 million hens, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.


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This story was updated Tuesday to reflect the Farm Bureau vote