Missouri Attorney General (AG) Chris Koster has sued California AG Kamala Harris, seeking to enjoin the enforcement of a voter approved ballot initiative (Prop. 2) and law (A.B. 1437) that will increase the size of egg-laying hen enclosures and decrease flock densities both for California producers and those in other states wishing to sell eggs in California. Missouri ex rel. Koster v. Harris, No. 14-0067 (U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. Cal., Fresno Div., filed February 3, 2014).
According to the complaint, Missouri egg farmers will be forced under the law to “incur massive capital improvement costs to build larger habitats for some or all of Missouri’s seven million egg-laying hens, or they can walk away from the state whose consumers bought one third of all eggs produced in Missouri last year. The first option will raise the cost of eggs in Missouri and make them too expensive to export to any state other than California. The second option will flood Missouri’s own markets with a half-billion surplus eggs that would otherwise have been exported to California, causing Missouri prices to fall and potentially forcing some Missouri farmers out of business.”
Alleging Commerce Clause violations, Koster contends that California has attempted to regulate agricultural practices outside the state by “conditioning the flow of goods across its state lines on the method of their production.” He brings an alternative count of federal preemption, alleging that if the court upholds the law and regulations as serving “a legitimate, non-discriminatory purpose to lower the risk of salmonella contamination by imposing new cage- size and flock-density standards for housing egg-laying hens, the statute and regulations would be in conflict with the express terms of 21 U.S.C. § 1052(b). Koster seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, costs and fees.