By DAVID A. LIEB
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to get involved in a legal dispute in which 15 states, including Wisconsin, are seeking to strike down laws in California and Massachusetts that require larger living areas for some farm animals.
The attorney general’s office in Missouri, which spearheaded one of the lawsuits, vowed Tuesday to continue fighting for local farmers and consumers and said it was considering the next step.
President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice had urged the Supreme Court not to accept original jurisdiction over the states’ lawsuits. It said the dispute over interstate commerce was best suited for a district court.
The Supreme Court didn’t cite a reason for rejecting the lawsuits in a brief order Monday, although it noted Justice Clarence Thomas would have granted the motions.
The high court on Monday also declined to hear an appeal of California’s 2004 law banning a poultry product known as foie gras, a liver delicacy made by force-feeding ducks and geese. The issue has been simmering in courts since shortly after lawmakers passed the ban, which also prohibits liver produced out of state from entering California.
The multi-state egg lawsuit against California was led by former Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican who won election as a U.S. senator in November. He was replaced as attorney general last week by former state treasurer Eric Schmitt, a fellow Republican who pledged Tuesday to continue the fight to protect farmers and consumers from “burdensome regulations.”
California voters approved a ballot initiative in 2008 requiring that caged hens spend most of their day in spaces large enough to lie down, stand up, turn around and extend their limbs. The measure gave farmers until 2015 to comply. After California egg farmers raised concerns that they would be put at a competitive disadvantage, state legislators in 2010 expanded the law to bar the sale of eggs from any hens that were not raised in compliance with California standards requiring at least 116 square inches of floor space per chicken.
The lawsuit claimed the California law cost consumers nationwide up to $350 million annually because of higher egg prices since the requirements took effect in 2015.
California voters in November approved an even more aggressive law. It will require all eggs sold in the state to come from cage-free hens by 2022. It also bans the sale of pork and veal from animals that are not raised according to new minimum living space requirements.
The other multi-state lawsuit, led by Indiana, challenged a law approved by Massachusetts voters in 2016 that requires minimum living spaces for pigs and calves and also mandates that all eggs come from cage-free hens by 2022.
Both lawsuits alleged violations of the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution for effectively imposing one state’s regulatory standards on people in other states.
The states involved in both lawsuits included Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. Iowa and Nevada were plaintiffs only in the lawsuit against California. South Carolina and West Virginia were plaintiffs only in the lawsuit against Massachusetts.