Egg producers should look for more Proposition 2 lawsuits in 2015
With the January 1, 2015, implementation date for Proposition 2 less than a year away, look for 2015 to go down in history as "the year of the lawsuit" in the U.S. egg industry. Despite statements to the contrary by at least one judge who has ruled on Proposition 2's language, there is a lack of clarity, and this ambiguity will likely be parsed out in more than one courthouse.
The state of California has established space requirements per bird based on the number of birds housed in a cage for egg producers to follow to ensure compliance with Proposition 2. The amount of space required per bird increases from 116 square inches per bird for eight or more birds per cage to 322 square inches per bird if only one bird is housed per cage. Look for activist groups to challenge at least one individual egg producer on whether or not their housing setup fulfills the requirements laid out in Proposition 2, that a bird be able to lie down, stand up, turn around and fully extend their limbs without touching another hen. The primary objective of these lawsuits may be to try and force California egg producers out of cages entirely. The legal fees that these types of lawsuits force egg producers to incur may be a seen as a side benefit for the activist groups, but the real damage could come from the paralyzing impact on new housing construction that the litigation might have.
It may not just be activists who rush to the courthouse in 2015 to file lawsuits. I wouldn't be surprised if an egg producer outside of California challenged the legality of Proposition 2 as it pertains to restricting the sale of eggs in California that are produced outside the state. Even without passage of the so-called King amendment, California's right to restrict commerce between states might be challenged in court.
I am not suggesting that the court house is the best place for layer housing standards to be decided upon, but if some of this litigation does take place in 2015, I just might have to start watching Court TV.