Lawmakers assail legislation that would limit California's egg law

WASHINGTON -- It’s not just about California and its eggs. 

So said a bipartisan group of lawmakers from other states stepping up a campaign Tuesday to defeat proposed federal legislation that would prohibit one state from imposing conditions on other states' production of agricultural goods.

The measure was drafted by Rep. Steve King, a Republican from egg-producing Iowa, who contends that California exceeded its authority and interfered with Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce in requiring that eggs imported into the state be produced under standards ensuring that hens can spread their wings.

The state lawmakers warned that the King measure -- included in the House-passed farm bill -- could nullify hundreds of state laws dealing with animal protection, food safety and other matters.

"This sets a very dangerous precedent in taking away the ability of state elected officials to respond to their constituency," said Illinois state Sen. Pamela J. Althoff, a Republican.

"This is a breathtaking overreach on the part of one member of Congress," added Minnesota state Sen. Scott Dibble, a Democrat. "One man substitutes his judgment for 7,383 state legislators."

Opponents of the measure are pressing House and Senate negotiators to keep the King measure out of the final farm bill. 

The state lawmakers, gathered in Georgia for a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures, were joined in a telephone news conference by John Goodwin, director of animal cruelty policy for the Humane Society of the United States.

"This isn’t about one state’s law on eggs," Goodwin said. "This is about an attempt at chilling all efforts at the state and local level at setting higher standards for farm animal care."   

Earlier this month, 151 Democrats and 16 Republicans signed letters urging congressional negotiators to keep the provision out of the final farm bill. Some lawmakers warned that it could jeopardize the entire farm bill. 

Proposition 2, passed by California voters in 2008, requires California farmers to give egg-laying birds enough room to stand and spread their wings. State legislation passed two years later added a requirement that, when the initiative takes effect in 2015, all eggs sold in the state come from farms that meet the California standards.


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