Gov. Heineman and Attorney General Bruning Join Pro-Agriculture Lawsuit
(Lincoln, Neb.) Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning announced the State of Nebraska's participation in a lawsuit that challenges egg production standards in California. Nebraska will join other states in a case filed by officials in Missouri that stands up for agriculture and fight anti-agriculture policies and practices pushed for by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
"There is concern that the California egg production standards create a precedent that would negatively impact Nebraska agriculture," said Gov. Heineman. "This is about protecting Nebraska's farmers and ranchers from the potential for regulatory burdens that hamper interstate trade. It's not only about protecting our egg producers. This is also about the precedent this sets for our beef, swine and dairy producers."
"Nebraska farmers and ranchers have taken great pride in caring for their livestock for generations," said Attorney General Bruning. "We stand with Nebraska ag producers and will fight HSUS' unconstitutional attempt to dictate farming practices in our state."
Missouri filed the complaint Feb. 3 in U.S. District Court in Fresno, Calif. The complaint seeks to stop implementation of regulations associated with the size of cages for egg laying hens.
Regulations were put in place as a result of California voters in 2008 approving a ballot initiative called Proposition 2. Proposition 2 was sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, and is viewed by some as an effort as another attempt by the organization to harm Nebraska agriculture.
In addition to these regulations, the California Legislature in 2010 approved legislation that requires all eggs coming into California for sale to meet the same egg production standards. The U.S. Constitution doesn't allow California voters to dictate the business practices of Nebraska egg producers. The Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution prevents states from regulating economic activity outside of its borders.
"We have continually told HSUS that their anti-ag attacks are not welcome in Nebraska," Gov. Heineman said. "That includes their attempts at creating overreaching, arbitrary, unconstitutional policy. Attorney General Bruning and I stand with agriculture and we will fight HSUS who wants to destroy agriculture in our state."
The Nebraska Department of Agriculture has heard from Nebraska farmers and ranchers who are concerned about what the California law could mean to them. In February, Dir. Greg Ibach introduced policy at a national meeting of his agriculture department colleagues that recognizes state regulations should not interfere with the free flow of goods between states.
"That is not to say that we shouldn't be able to create restrictions that protect animal health, for example," Dir. Ibach said. "But the California regulations appear to be more about protecting the market for California farmers."
In 2012, Nebraska ranked 12th in the nation in commercial egg production. Nebraska is a leading state nationally in the production of processed egg products which are used commercially in food service operations around the world. About 9.2 million hens populate Nebraska's commercial egg laying facilities and produce about 2.7 billion eggs each year. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, cash receipts for the 2.7 billion eggs produced in 2012 totaled about $180 million.
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