POLITICS
10/07/2014 05:36 pm ET Updated Oct 07, 2014

Latest Attack On California's Humane Livestock Standards Struck Down By Judge

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The latest in a series of attempts to strike down California's humane livestock standards failed last week after a judge threw out a lawsuit brought forward by a coalition of Southern and Midwestern states.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Kimberly Mueller dismissed the lawsuit from Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster (D) -- who was joined by attorneys general from Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Oklahoma -- condemning California's mandate that all eggs sold in the state come from chickens with enough room in their quarters to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs or wings and turn around freely. The attorneys, Mueller concluded, were acting not in the interest of their states' general populations, but rather in the interest of egg producers who want to sell to the nation's most populous state.

In a press statement February, Koster's office argued that California's standards are in violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which "prohibits any state from enacting legislation that regulates conduct wholly outside its borders, protects its own citizens from out-of-state competition, or places undue burdens on interstate commerce."

But Mueller dismissed that argument, pointing out that egg producers in other states have the option of not participating in California's market if they don't want to operate according to the standards described in the law.

California's humane livestock rules, which were passed under Proposition 2 in 2008 and expanded in 2010 to include the egg standard, will go into full effect in January 2015. Major egg-producing states that hope to continue selling to California without retrofitting their farms have taken their opposition to court numerous times. Three other lawsuits filed against California have failed, The Washington Post notes, and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) tried unsuccessfully to include an amendment in last year's farm bill that would have struck down California's standards.

Koster announced Friday that he is reviewing his options for moving forward, according to the Post. But proponents of California's humane livestock laws hope their adversaries will at last admit defeat.

"Surely, with the dismissal of this lawsuit," wrote Carla Hall of the Los Angeles Times editorial board on Monday, "farmers in Missouri -- and the other states that joined the suit -- will finally get the message that it's time to stop fighting the law and start complying with it."

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