Saturday, December 2, 2023

Supreme Court ends challenge to California egg sales law

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By Barbara Olejnik

Poultry Times Staff

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a petition from six states seeking to overturn California’s law on the sale of eggs in the state.

At issue was a 2008 ballot initiative, Proposition 2,  approved by California voters and which went into effect Jan. 1, 2015, that requires laying hens be allowed to ‘stand up, lie down, turn around freely and extend their limbs.” The ruling also applies to breeding sows and veal calves.

California legislators later expanded the law in 2010 to ban the sale of eggs from any hens that were not raised in compliance with the housing requirements, even if the eggs came from other states.

Six state attorneys general and governors filed suit to overturn the California ban. Led by Missouri, the states also included Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama, Kentucky and Iowa.

The states claimed that the California legislation would impose an excessive burden on interstate commerce, was protectionist and would cost producers from the states millions of dollars to make necessary capital improvements to comply with the law.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley said the law would cost Missouri jobs because of increased farming costs, drive up food costs and hurt the state’s hospitality and restaurant industries because of pricier food.

In denying the petition, the Supreme Court upheld a November 2016 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the states had failed to show how the law would affect them and not just individual egg farmers.

The Court of Appeals decision said petitioners failed to establish parens patriae (A doctrine that grants the inherent power and authority of the state to protect persons who are legally unable to act on their own behalf) because:

  • They failed to articulate an interest apart from the interests of private egg producers, who could have filed an action on their own behalf;
  • The allegations about potential economic effects of the challenged law, after implementation, were necessarily speculative; and
  • The allegations of discrimination were misplaced because the laws do not distinguish among eggs based on their state of origin.

While this challenge to the California egg law has ended, the possibility remains open of additional challenges in other courts outside the state of California.

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