North Dakota is one of 13 states that are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block a California law focused on egg production. The law, which came into effect two years ago, requires any eggs sold within the state to come from cages where the hens have enough space to “lie down, stand up, turn around, and fully extend their limbs”. The plaintiff states say such a law is a violation of interstate commerce law and is pre-empted by federal law. A similar lawsuit last year by six states was dismissed, since the appeals court said the group failed to show that the law affected more than just individual farmers.
This new lawsuit is unique in that is asks the Supreme Court to take up the case immediately, circumventing the lower level courts. The plaintiffs, which are led by Missouri, also allege that the cage requirement has cost consumers nationwide as much as $350 million each year by increasing egg prices, much of which is focused on the poorest 20% of the nations population. Joining North Dakota and Missouri in the suit are Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.
California’s egg production law was voted on through ballot measure in 2008 and originally only effected egg producers operating within the state. That caused an uproar with in the states egg industry, with producers saying they would be at a competitive disadvantage to producers in other states, who would have lower costs. In order to fix the issue, California’s legislature amended the law, requiring the larger cages for all eggs sold in the state, not just produced. The state also cited health concerns, saying that the larger cases would decrease the risk of Salmonella. Plaintiffs in the case say health concerns are merely a cover to protect California’s egg industry.