Missouri's attorney general Chris Koster has challenged a California law set to take effect in 2015, which states that California farmers and exporters to the state alike must comply with animal protection laws that mandate the size of hen coops. Koster alleges that the law infringes on constitutional commerce protections, and that Missouri farmers would be financially crippled by the legislation. About a third of Missouri’s egg supply is exported to California each year, according to The Washington Post. When the ballot was passed in 2008, the regulations only affected in-state egg production, but was revised in 2010 to include imported eggs.
The attorney general’s office has estimated that Missouri egg producers would need to pay $120 million to comply with the sizing regulations, and that production costs would raise by 20 percent. “This is not an agriculture case, and it’s not just about egg production,” Koster told The Kansas City Star. “It’s about the tendency by California to press the boundaries of intrusion into an area protected by the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
In a statement, Koster compared California’s demands to requiring that “soybeans be harvested by hand or that Missouri corn be transported by solar-powered trucks.” In response, a Humane Society director noted that states had the right to pass laws to ensure public safety. Jennifer Fearing, the organization’s senior state director for California, said that eggs from hens in the smaller “battery cages” were at greater risk for salmonella contamination.
Missouri’s resistance to improve farm conditions is in direct opposition with ongoing public concerns about the humane treatment of livestock and food safety regulation by Congress. “It’s a real embarrassment for the state of Missouri that Mr. Koster would defend a practice that is horribly abusive of animals with a legal theory that is tilting at windmills,” Bruce Friedrich, a senior policy director at Farm Sanctuary, told the Associated Press. The animal rights organization was among those who originally helped California pass the ballot.