On March 5, 2014, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, stood up for consumers, States’ rights, American farmers, and the United States Constitution, leading six States in a lawsuit against the State of California for violating the Commerce and Supremacy Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
This is a critical legal precedent and we commend the bipartisan leadership from Missouri, Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.
California’s Proposition 2 (2008), backed and funded by HSUS, imposed housing mandates on California egg producers and placed California producers at a competitive disadvantage with producers from other States. Recognition of the harmful impacts on California producers resulting from Prop 2 moved California to pass legislation (2010) extending the mandates beyond its borders by including the production practices of any egg sold in California. This subsequent action is a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The U.S Constitution empowers the federal government to regulate nationwide food production standards which it does under the Federal Egg Products Inspection Act. The State of California has no authority to dictate such regulatory standards over farmers in any or all of the other 49 States.
For those concerned about federal mandates from Washington, D.C., the thought of an unfunded national mandate originating from a State Capitol should be even more troubling.
California’s attempt to regulate an entire industry will have the largest impact on consumers, particularly those who are financially needy, who cannot afford a food tax on their cheapest form of protein – eggs.
What Koster’s filing makes clear is that California moved urgently to level the playing field in order to protect in-state produces from out-of-state competition. It’s exactly the same techniques U.S. farmers confront in the international marketplace in the form of unfair and protectionist, non-tariff trade barriers.
Coverage from U.S. media sources, who typically stand tall for consumers and the needy, have largely omitted the inflationary consequences of this remarkable action. One can review economic forecasts, employ common sense, compare the massive price differentials of various egg products on the supermarket shelves, or they can simply Google “EU egg shortages” to understand the real life implications of the analogous European Union-imposed food production mandates in 1999. European news sources reported egg prices rising over 75 percent and America’s own NPR reported price increases up to 250 percent in some regions.
If a State can nakedly impose trade barriers in this case and get away with it, what is next? We would not tolerate States producing Ford vehicles to scheme against out-of-state competition producing General Motors vehicles.
Those who are not sensitive to the price of food and show no respect for consumer choice, can skip the Federal Government and push their personal preferences, in the form of unfunded mandates, to any one of the 50 State Capitols.
In this case, HSUS found Washington was unwilling to control thy neighbor’s refrigerator, so they took to Sacramento instead.
Proponents will claim California’s hen housing requirements were put in place for reasons of food safety, which we know do not meet the scientific test nor bear relationship to the legislative history listed in the filing. Furthermore, numerous agencies of the Federal Government have long exercised the authority and responsibility to regulate food safety – a process that is dynamic and rapid, while utilizing science and experience to make tomorrow better than today.
The U.S. Constitution clearly holds that it is the role of Congress to protect interstate commerce and prevent interstate trade wars within our American borders. The U.S. House Committee on Agriculture approved a measure last year included in the House-passed Farm Bill to affirm this Constitutional power with majorities of both Democrats and Republicans supporting it, but the Senate Democrats ducked the issue, leaving citizens unprotected from the impacts of the California scheme.
It is a profound show of American leadership that the current bipartisan group of State officials, led by General Koster, has put this critical matter to the test on behalf of consumers, producers, and the supreme law of the land.
It is imperative to note that while we Americans live in the land of plenty with the freedom to exercise individual market choices, we live in a world of scarcity. An estimated 870 million people go to bed hungry each day. Tomorrow will be far more challenging as populations and economies grow, and the pressure on our environment resources increases.
American farmers, often facing conflicting demands from consumers, public officials, and the wealthy “non-profit” activist industry, continue to be dynamic in their methods and their ability to provide safe food, more choices, and doing so more affordably than anywhere on earth. Farmers do so using less land, energy, and water, while employing higher safety standards and better nutrition, healthcare and protection for their animals.
The success of farmers will be pushed to the test as they face the future demand of producing 70 percent more food in the next 40 years – more than the previous 8,000 combined. There is a great deal at stake if those productive farmers that consumers rely upon are debilitated.
Disparaging movies, internet chatter, and self-serving messages from opportunistic corporate profiteers may be compelling to those with little at stake, but as former President Jimmy Carter, and Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, noted, technology is not our enemy, hunger and starvation are.
To read the entire federal filing, click here: Missouri v. Harris First Amended Complaint
We applaud the following State leaders for their commitments to fight against California’s bad egg bill:
- Chris Koster, Missouri Attorney General
- Jon Bruning, Nebraska Attorney General
- Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General
- Luther Strange, Alabama Attorney General
- Jack Conway, Kentucky Attorney General
- Terry E. Branstad, Governor of Iowa
– Editorial written by Brian Klippenstein, Executive Director of Protect the Harvest