California egg producers, through the Association of California Egg Farmers, are filing a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit which challenges the legal validity of Proposition 2 — a law regulating egg-laying-hen enclosures. The suit was filed by William Cramer, an egg farmer who is not a member of the association.
The Association of California Egg Farmers is focused on the claim that Proposition 2 is unconstitutionally vague and does not inform egg farmers how to confine their hens so as to avoid the criminal penalties that are part of the law. The decision to enter the lawsuit was not made lightly, said the association, but time has become a major issue for California egg farmers who need to know the requirements for the enclosures they must build prior to the law taking effect on January 1, 2015, when compliance with Proposition 2 becomes mandatory. The lack of clarity regarding hen enclosure standards will require an investment of $400 million from the state's egg farmers and three years to construct new facilities in California.
The recent passage of the "King Amendment" to the 2012 Farm Bill by the House Agriculture Committee will also create challenges, according to the association. The King Amendment exempts out-of-state egg farmers selling eggs into California from complying with Proposition 2, something which will threaten the interests of California consumers as well as place California egg farmers at an economic and competitive disadvantage, said the association.
"Passage of the King Amendment will devastate California's fresh egg industry by removing all quality and safety standards and enable out-of-state egg producers to avoid having to comply with Proposition 2," said Arnie Riebli, President of the Association of California Egg Farmers. "Given the risk of criminal prosecution for violating Proposition 2 and the risks created by the King Amendment, we have no choice but file this motion to enable our industry to survive."
The association has said it supports the goal of providing appropriate space to egg-laying hens, and has joined with the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers to support Senator Dianne Feinstein's Egg Products Inspection Act amendments, which would establish preemptive national standards on egg-laying-hen enclosures, including dimensions and other key elements that are not found in Proposition 2. "We simply cannot wait until ACEF members are criminally prosecuted to find out what Proposition 2 means and we cannot live with the King Amendment which would effectively put California egg farmers out of business," said Debbie Murdock, executive director of the Association of California Egg Farmers.