Missouri's Attorney General, Chris Koster, has filed a federal lawsuit against the state of the California on Tuesday, reports the Washington Post. Koster accused the state of violating the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by imposing new regulations on out-of-state farmers.
Animal activists have long asserted that America's poultry farms must have ample space for hens to lay their eggs.
California is the first state to take initiative, approving a ballot in 2008 that required meat farms to have enough space for animals to stand up, lie down, and turn around. The law was expanded in 2010, prohibiting the selling of eggs that were not raise in compliant farms.
The law will take effect in 2015.
Farmers in California are complaining that the new regulation, which involves cost to comply with the space requirements, will put their business in a "competitive disadvantage" with other egg farms in other states.
California realized the point and endorsed a measure to require out-of-state farmers to comply with California rules.
Koster said that the law is unfair to Missouri farmers, which are producing 1.7 billion eggs annually and are selling around 540 million eggs in California. “If California legislators are permitted to mandate the size of chicken coops on Missouri farms, they may just as easily demand that Missouri soybeans be harvested by hand or that Missouri corn be transported by solar-powered trucks,” Koster argued.
Missouri is the second largest egg exporter to California, with Iowa being the first.
But activists alleged that many chicken farms in Missouri are using tight "battery cages" that are prone to salmonella contamination. "It's a real embarrassment for the state of Missouri that Mr. Koster would defend a practice that is horribly abusive of animals with a legal theory that is tilting at windmills," a Farm Sanctuary spokesman said.