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DOJ sides with California in egg standards lawsuit

DOJ sides with California in egg standards lawsuit

Department of Justice said Supreme Court should not intervene in challenge of California’s egg production standards law.

The Department of Justice does not feel the Supreme Court should intervene in a case brought by 12 states challenging California regarding California’s law requiring egg producers across the country comply with California’s production standards regulations in order to sell eggs into California.

A total of 12 states — led by Missouri and including Iowa, the country’s biggest egg producer — asked the Supreme Court to strike the law down, saying that California’s laws were preempted by the Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA), the federal law that oversees egg production, and that they violated the Interstate Commerce Clause, a section of the U.S. Constitution that gives the federal government power to regulate commerce between states.

The states’ suit claims that California’s regulations violate both a federal law prohibiting states from imposing their own standards on eggs produced in other states, and the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives Congress exclusive authority to regulate commerce among and between states.

“[California’s egg laws] are not preempted by the EPIA, because USDA’s egg-grading standards do not address confinement conditions for egg-laying hens,” Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco wrote in the DOJ’s amicus brief.

“Plaintiffs allege that the California Egg Laws: (1) have resulted in higher egg prices for egg consumers in their States, including certain state institutions; (2) upset principles of federalism; and (3) offend their sovereignty by resulting in private egg producers inviting California inspectors within their borders without their consent. None of those asserted interests justifies the exercise of this Court’s original jurisdiction,” the DOJ filing said.

Francisco wrote that the actions aren’t serious enough to warrant the Supreme Court’s attention because none of the 12 states involved are seeing their sovereign function jeopardized by California’s egg laws.

If egg producers themselves want to sue California’s officials, the amicus said they could, but states don’t have legal standing to challenge the law.

In 2016, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Missouri and the five other plaintiff states that filed the lawsuit originally lacked standing to pursue their claims. The latest filing in the U.S. Supreme Court answers this by providing a careful economic analysis that establishes the impact of these burdensome regulations.

Missouri and the other states claimed their farmers have already or will incur costs between $228 million to $912 million to comply with California’s regulation. The Bill of Complaint claims “…egg prices have increased nationwide by as much at 1.73% to 5.12%.”

DOJ wrote, “In the face of such uncertainty about whether plaintiffs and their residents have suffered economic injury at all, and if so, whether the harm is attributable to California’s Egg Laws or to decisions by other market actors plaintiffs’ standing is unclear.”

“Plaintiffs’ allegations regarding economic harm to state residents and institutions are insufficient because they do not persuasively show price increases outside California that are directly attributable to California’s Egg Laws,” the brief read.

DOJ has said the Food & Drug Administration has stated that States may impose Salmonella-prevention requirements more stringent than federal standards.

"It is unfortunate the Decision by DOJ was not to recommend a hearing before the Supreme Court. The challenge will have to be addressed in the lower courts first,” said Ken Klippen, president of the National Egg Farmers. 

TAGS: Policy
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