California egg lawsuit: 'a states' rights issue' - - Columbia, South Carolina

California egg lawsuit: 'a states' rights issue'

(Source: MGN Online) (Source: MGN Online)

Egg production isn't the biggest industry in Alabama. As a matter of fact, the state has to ship in what are known as "table eggs," the kind shoppers pick up at the grocery store.

"We run at a deficit in this state which is why we get them from Georgia and other states," said Ray Hilburn, Associate Director of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association.

The concern among egg producers and farmers as a whole is that a California law that places restrictions on producing table eggs could become a nationwide trend that sends egg and produce prices soaring.

"To us, this is a states' rights issue," Hilburn said.

The California law in question requires that California raised hens must be kept in humane conditions with the ability to walk around with wide spaces and climate control among other provisions. Those are the uncontroversial provisions in the case of Alabama and other states' legal actions.

The section causing angst with several attorneys general would bar eggs raised in conditions not up to California standards from store shelves in the Golden State.

Voters approved the law in 2008 but it doesn't take effect until 2015.

Hilburn with the Poultry and Egg Association says a single state doesn't have the right to make regulations that could affect a state's agriculturally policies or economy.

"As long as it's safe for the consumer we think that's fine. That's what the USDA's there for to make those standards," Hilburn said.

Alabama's Attorney General Luther Strange joined others from Nebraska, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma and the governor of Iowa in the suit.

The Humane Society of the United States supports the California law and has vowed to fight to keep it on the books.

In a statement, Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation said, "These states are trying to force their sub-standard eggs on California consumers, even though the California legislature has declared such eggs to be repugnant to the state's values and a threat to public health."

The case is currently pending before the US District Court in California's Eastern District.

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