Consumer group backs states in egg, meat lawsuits

U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

The Center for Consumer Freedom has filed amicus briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court, imploring the justices to hear two lawsuits challenging laws in California and Massachusetts that hinder sales of eggs and meat products from other states.

The center believes the cases are important because the California and Massachusetts laws are unconstitutional, said Will Coggin, CCF managing director.

California banned the sale of conventionally raised eggs in 2015, following a successful 2008 ballot initiative outlining housing standards for laying hens that would provide more space than conventional practices.

In December, Missouri and 12 other states filed a motion for permission to file a complaint against the ban in the Supreme Court.

The complaint challenges California’s attempt to dictate the manner of agricultural production in other states, increasing costs to egg producers and consumers. It also cites increased costs to other states whose agencies such as schools and prisons buy eggs and to state-owned egg-production facilities.

A similar motion was filed with the Supreme Court by Indiana and 12 other states against Massachusetts in its attempt to dictate conditions of housing for poultry, hogs and calves in every other state.

Massachusetts voters passed a ballot measure in 2016 that bans the sale of conventionally produced eggs, pork and veal in the state beginning in 2022.

The complaint against the state, also filed in December, cites Massachusetts’ attempt to impose regulatory standards on the entire interstate market for eggs, pork and veal.

Both complaints contend the restrictions violate the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution.

“California and Massachusetts shouldn’t get to dictate how farmers in Iowa, North Carolina or any other state care for their animals,” Coggin said.

Animal-care decisions should be made by farmers and veterinarians, not at the ballot box, he said.

CCF wants the Supreme Court to take up the legal challenges and strike down those laws, he said.

The first step is asking the court to hear the cases directly, rather than have them work their way up through lower courts, he said.

“The Supreme Court certainly has the power to do this, with one state suing another state,” he said.

The Constitution gives the Supreme Court jurisdiction over all controversies between states, and the commerce clause makes the federal government the arbiter of commerce between states.

Given the timeline, it’s best to address the issue now rather than through a four- or five-year legal saga, he said.

California’s law is already harming consumers, who saw an 18 percent increase in the price of eggs in 2015. Egg producers have spent millions of dollars to retrofit or build facilities — costs they pass on to consumers. States that purchase eggs for schools and prisons, for example, have been harmed by higher costs. And Massachusetts’ law is set to go into effect in four years, he said.

“The Supreme Court should strike down these unconstitutional laws that drive up costs and restrict choices for consumers and farmers,” he said.

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