Huffman Joins MSNBC to Discuss California’s Humane Egg Law

February 11, 2014

WASHINGTON­—In his first appearance on national television as a Congressman, Representative Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) joined MSNBC’s Craig Melvin on NewsNation to discuss Missouri’s misguided lawsuit challenging California’s landmark egg law.

Click HERE to view Congressman Huffman’s interview:

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A transcript of Congressman Huffman’s interview can be found below

Craig Melvin, host: Missouri’s Attorney General is suing the state of California essentially over chickens and eggs. In 2010, California passed a law barring eggs from being sold there that come from hens in cages that don't comply with new size standards. It goes into effect next year, meaning farmers in other states will have to make their coops larger if they want to sell their eggs in California. 

Attorney General Chris Koster [from footage]: California has every right in the world to decide what type of housing they have for their chickens. But to close off the California market to the Missouri-based producers unless we expand our chicken houses is a breach of the U.S. commerce clause. 

Craig Melvin: Joining me now, Democratic Congressman Jared Huffman of California. He actually wrote the legislation while he was in the California State Legislature. Congressman, good to see you. First of all, let me get your response to the suit. 

Congressman Huffman:  Well, Craig, I don't think it's a very serious lawsuit. The truth is states have every right to set their own health and safety and animal welfare standards. That has been upheld by the courts. All California has said is that they want all eggs sold in California to comply with the minimal standards that the voters established back in 2008. 

Craig Melvin: Attorney General Koster has also said that he is worried about the kind of precedent that your law would set. Take a listen

Chris Koster [from footage]: If California is able to get away with deciding how big Missouri chickens coops should be, then they could tell us that very with to pick our soybeans by hand or move our corn to market it in solar powered trucks.

Craig Melvin: And here’s the thing, Congressman, and you’ll at least acknowledge this: we're talking about California. We’re not talking about Arkansas; we’re not talking about a smaller state. We’re talking about one of the largest states in this country. Missouri farmers, I understand it, sell about a third of their eggs to California. Koster said it would cost about $120 million for his farmers to comply with the law. How fair is that?

Congressman Huffman:  Well, it's very fair because what California has done is said that anybody that wants to sell eggs in our state has to meet these minimal hen housing standards. These are standards passed for human health and safety and also for animal welfare. And a state's right to do that has been upheld time and time again. Recently under some litigation challenging California’s foie gras ban. That too was upheld. So we're not requiring anything different of Missouri egg producers, or Iowa egg producers that isn't required of California's own egg producers. If they want to sell in to our state, they need to meet our standards. That is fair. 

Craig Melvin: Does it put California farmers at all at a disadvantage with egg farmers in other states by having to shell out money more to expand their cages? 

Congressman Huffman:  No, it's actually the opposite. What would put them at a disadvantage is if Missouri were to somehow prevail—I don’t think they will—in this lawsuit which would create a double standard. It would say that, fine, California can require these standards of its own egg producers, but unscrupulous producers out of state who don't want to set high standards for health and safety and animal welfare can swoop in and steal the market. That is not right. So, I’m very confident this lawsuit will be defeated and we should move on from here.

Craig Melvin: Congressman, really quickly, for folks who may not have been following the story very closely, what exactly was the impetus for the new law?

Congressman Huffman:  Well, in 2008, California voters overwhelming passed an initiative that said that these battery cages where egg-laying hens are confined in incredibly concentrated conditions—they can never move around and spread their wings—California voters said we want a higher standard for eggs in our state. As written, it could have been interpreted to have a loophole that applied that standard only to eggs produced in California and not those that come in from out of state and are sold in California. So I introduced a law that passed bipartisan, signed by a Republican Governor in 2010. That’s what this is about. Missouri egg producers want to be able to skirt the standards that California consumers have set for eggs in our state.

Craig Melvin: Congressman, thank you so much. It’s a fascinating debate. We’ll going to continue watching this as well. I do appreciate your time.

Congressman Huffman: Thanks for having me.