House members want California egg measure removed from farm bill

More than a third of House members are urging congressional negotiators to keep out of a new farm bill a measure that would prevent California from requiring that eggs imported into the state be produced under standards ensuring that hens can spread their wings.Some 151 Democrats and 16 Republicans signed letters warning the measure could upset a wide range of state laws. GOP lawmakers said it also could jeopardize the entire farm bill.

The measure, which would prohibit states from imposing conditions on another state’s production of agricultural goods, is included in the House-approved farm bill. There is no similar measure in the Senate version of the legislation. Formal House-Senate negotiations to reconcile differences in the farm bill are expected to begin in September.The measure was sought by Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, the No. 1 egg-producing state. He contends that California exceeded its authority and interfered with Congress power to regulate interstate commerce in imposing conditions on farmers who want to sell eggs in the nations most populous state.

Proposition 2, passed by California voters in 2008, requires California farmers to give egg-laying birds enough room to stand and spread their wings. State legislation passed two years later added a requirement that, when the initiative takes effect in 2015, all eggs sold in the state come from farms that meet the California standards.Democratic Reps. Kurt Schrader of Oregon and Gary Peters of Michigan, who gathered the Democratic signatures for a letter, say the measure “represents an extraordinary attack on states rights.Critics contend the King measure would threaten laws in other states dealing with issues such as food safety, environmental protection and animal welfare. A diverse coalition of 64 groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, Consumers Union and the Sierra Club, also is working to keep the language from a final farm bill.

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