John Block: Chickens and Eggs

The State of California has a reputation for leading in many ways – especially in the area of government regulations. Now, they have bit off almost more than they can chew. Certainly, the disadvantaged will not be chewing on many eggs since the State has more than doubled the price of eggs. A dozen eggs now costs more than $3.00. One year ago, you could get a dozen for a little over $1.00.

All of this happens just at the time nutritionists are raving about how healthy eggs are for the diet.

California voters did this to themselves. In 2008, they passed a law that required that cages housing their laying hens had to be much larger. Then, it dawned on the politicians that that kind of costly requirement imposed upon their egg farmers would put them out of business. Less expensive eggs would be streaming into the State. So in 2010, they passed legislation that would not allow eggs coming into California from other states unless their cages were as big as the California cage standards. The cages have to be twice the size as the industry norm.

The cost of new cages can cost 1 million dollars for 25,000 chickens. As you might imagine, some California farmers are giving up on the egg business. California egg production has taken a 25% dive since the law was passed. Other states are not willing to pay the extra cost to expand their cages. So, California is short on eggs. The poorest consumers pay the price.

Here we are talking about free trade agreements with other countries. Do we need to negotiate a free trade agreement between states? Perhaps the California crate law violates the Commerce clause. States are not supposed to interfere with interstate trade.

All of this costly burden has been pushed upon California consumers by the animal rights organizations. They are never satisfied.

John Block was Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1981-1985, where he played a key role in the development of the 1985 Farm Bill.

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