You might remember the heated 2008 debate surrounding California Proposition 2. Even though this law was to set California standards, it could have a major implications for farmers and ranchers across the country. So what happened? The agriculture community spoke up and opposed Proposition 2 legislation. Unfortunately Proposition 2 passed, requiring specific cage sizes for laying hens to take effect in 2015. The requirements include “…sufficient room for each hen to stand up, lie down, turn around freely, and fully extend their limbs.” Another law passed in 2009 that extended these same requirements to any state that sells eggs in California. As you can imagine, this extension caused great turmoil, especially to the states that export eggs to California.
The controversy re-ignited last month when Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster filed suit against California. Koster claimed that California is violating the Commerce and Supremacy Clauses of the United States Constitution by forcing other states to comply with California’s cage size standards. Koster stated, “This case is not just about farming practices. At stake is whether elected officials in one state may regulate the practices of another state’s citizens, who cannot vote them out of office.” One-third of all eggs produced in Missouri are exported to California which would mean Missouri’s egg farmers would lose access to their largest market. Other states have joined in the lawsuit, including Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Oklahoma. State leaders realize that the California laws affect their farmers and ranchers. Any state that wishes to sell eggs in California has to meet the cage size requirements. But changing cage sizes is not cheap and could put farmers in these states out of business.
But does the conversation only reach egg producers? For now it may seem that way, but those involved in the agriculture industry know that this could be a slippery slope involving many other types of livestock. One main concern for agriculture is that there is now legislation in place regulating how farmers run their operations.
Even though Nebraska is not a top ranking state in egg production, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman understands how important agriculture is to his state and is willing to stand up for farmers. “It’s not only about protecting our egg producers. This is also about the precedent this sets for our beef, swine and dairy producers.” Heineman says, “We have continually told HSUS that their anti-ag attacks are not welcome in Nebraska” “That includes their attempts at creating overreaching, arbitrary, unconstitutional policy.”
Is the Nebraska Governor correct? Does this legislation pose a significant threat to all animal agriculture? If you think so, then encourage your state officials to look into this situation and take a stand on behalf of the farmers and ranchers in your community. Do you want your eggs sunny-side-up or non-existent?