Earlier this month Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, along with five other state attorneys general, filed their appellate brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging California's egg cage size law. They are appealing their earlier loss in U.S. District Court.
News stories missed the fact that Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and the American Farm Bureau filed friends of the court briefs. The Utah Amicus Curiae brief hit the heart of the U.S. District Court opinion on whether the attorneys general will be allowed to file an amended complaint in order to start over.
The U.S. District Court ruled the initial attorneys' general brief was so lacking in merit and so poorly presented there was no hope to amend it. The Court dismissed the attorneys' general brief with prejudice, meaning they could not file an amended complaint because there was no harm or standing that could be demonstrated.
Utah says the lower court is wrong. Utah says there is harm to its citizens and the Ninth Circuit must let the complaint be amended. Utah's Attorney General said California egg law causes substantial harm to its citizens by substantially raising the price of eggs. The Utah brief proves harm by attaching an affidavit from Utah State showing economic harm to 375,000 Utahans.
Another affidavit was prepared by an economist from Iowa State and is attached to Utah's brief filed in the Ninth Circuit.
Dr. Dermot Hayes was retained by Protect The Harvest, which fights for and defends farm families and opposes groups like HSUS that threaten consumer access to affordable food. Hayes teaches at Iowa State University. He describes the devastation caused by California's Proposition 2 and California's Assembly Bill 1437. The proposition and legislation requires egg farmers in all states exporting eggs into California to comply with California's standards for egg cage size to house hens. California requires egg producers and egg handlers in every state to provide a minimum 116 sq. inches of floor space per bird if the enclosure contains 9 or more laying hens.
Hayes answers the U.S. District Court judge, who basically said the Attorneys' General were only representing egg farmers and not citizens of their respective states. Iowa is the largest producer of eggs with 51.8 million laying hens. For comparison, Ohio has 28 million, Indiana has 25.8 million and California has 16.3 million laying hens. Iowa shipped 1.14 billion eggs to California in 2014. This represented 8% of the eggs produced in Iowa and 33% of shell eggs imported into California.
Hayes points out that many egg producers will increase the number of square inches per layer from 67 to 116 sq. inches per bird by slaughtering approximately 42% of the egg laying hens. As he points out, this slaughter and reduction in birds in the U.S. will lead to price increases.
He says costs in January 2015 increased substantially. Hayes advises the Ninth Circuit Court that the bird reduction by egg producers will increase retail egg prices by 20%.
Even in the Midwest, Hayes proclaims, eggs selling for $1.50 in early December jumped to $2.30 per dozen in late December, 2014. Dr. Hayes says in his affidavit the average consumer buys approximately 22 dozen eggs per year. "This price increase will have a disproportionate impact on poorer consumers," he says. "Eggs are an entry level protein source and the protein composition is perfect for human nutrition. The price increase will cause these consumers to switch to less nutritious foods."
Hayes concludes that California's egg cage size rule will cost Iowa consumers $19.3 million and Missouri consumers $37.5 million more for food costs in 2015 alone.
Protect the Harvest hired people to provide evidence to the Utah Attorney General and other Attorneys' General in showing the real harm to the poor and other consumers caused by California's attempt to control agricultural practices in other states. Stay turned to determine whether the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals pays any attention to Utah's Attorney General and the harm to the poor and other consumers that is caused by California's egg cage size law.
Gary H. Baise is a principal at OFW Law (Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz P.C.). This article first appeared in Farm Futures magazine. The opinions presented here are expressly those of the author. For more information, go to www.OFWlaw.com.