STOPPING STATE INTRUSIONS ON SOVEREIGNTY OF OTHER STATES
Two years after Californians in 2008 voted to outlaw scientifically sound housing systems for egg-laying hens, sows and veal calves, the state’s legislature passed a bill prohibiting the sale in the state of eggs from out-of-state hens raised in the banned housing. Now it wants to extend that prohibition to pork and veal. An initiative to do that championed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) will be on the ballot this November.
And in 2016, Massachusetts voters – prodded by HSUS – approved a similar ban on the same housing systems and on in-state sales of eggs, pork and veal from out-of-state animals raised in the prohibited housing. (It takes effect in 2022.)
But people who understand the U.S. Constitution – specifically its grant of power to Congress to “regulate commerce … among the several States” – are pushing back against such state intrusions on the sovereignty of other states.
Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., last week introduced the “State Agriculture Freedom Act” to prohibit a state from imposing regulations on agricultural operations that aren’t physically present in the state; it would stop states from banning the sale of out-of-state agricultural products that don’t meet their criteria. A similar but slightly broader measure was introduced last year by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.
The U.S. Supreme Court has invalidated state laws – even on issues where Congress is silent – that discriminate against people or products outside of the state unless they are necessary to achieve an important purpose such as public health and safety.
Perhaps more important than protecting constitutional principles, the Noem and Sensenbrenner bills would shield farmers from costly production mandates imposed by food elitists in other states and protect consumers from hikes in food prices.
According to a January 2016 study conducted by Harry Kaiser, a Cornell University economist, California’s ban on eggs from out-of-state hens housed in so-called battery cages resulted in a 49-cent per dozen increase in egg prices. Based on an average U.S. per capita egg consumption of 21½ dozen a year, California consumers are spending almost $14 a person more a year on eggs, or $70 more for a household of five because of the ban.
While that price increase may not be severe for an average California household, the same can’t be said for the poorest households in the state.
Kaiser also estimated that Massachusetts’ prohibition will cost the state’s consumers $249 million in higher food prices – $95 million in higher egg prices and $154 million in higher pork prices – in just the first year after implementation.
Here’s hoping some version of the Noem-Sensenbrenner legislation gets approved soon.