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DOJ Declines to Support Midwest States’ Opposition to California Over Housing Restrictions


In an amicus brief filed by Solicitor General, Noel J. Francisco, the Department of Justice believes that sovereign functions of the plaintiff states have not been jeopardized by California’s restrictions imposing common housing requirements for eggs imported into the state.

The plaintiffs comprising twelve Midwest states led by Missouri have petitioned the Supreme Court to rule on the legality of the California law AB1437 enacted in 2010, claiming that it preempted the Egg Production Inspection Act and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Francisco noted that USDA egg-grading standards do not address confinement conditions for egg-laying hens. The Department of Justice filing also rejects the claim that inspection of Midwest farms by California officials offends the sovereignty of individual states.

In 2016, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Missouri and five other plaintiff states lacked standing to pursue claims against the California law despite the high cost involved in converting from traditional caged housing to alternative systems to supply the market in California.

The amicus brief  filed by the Department of Justice refutes allegations of financial hardship as a result of increases in price of eggs outside California since there is no direct evidence that California’s egg laws have had any effect on prices.

Successive lawsuits since passage of Proposition #2 in 2008 have failed to demonstrate any conflict with the Constitution. In the ten years since Proposition #2 and the subsequent California statute imposing similar housing requirements on eggs introduced into the state, producers have complied with space requirements and will obviously be required to conform to Proposition #12 enacted in 2018.

California regulations have resulted in new egg production complexes in Arizona and in Midwest states to supply the market in California. Many small-scale cage facilities in California using obsolete housing ceased production in the years leading up to the compliance date of January 1st 2015 with respect to Proposition #2. These have been replaced by both floor and aviary systems serving the State market.