Nebraska Joins Lawsuit over Animal Agriculture Rules


Gov. Dave Heineman and Attorney General Jon Bruning announced on Wednesday that Nebraska has joined a lawsuit challenging egg production standards in California, which they view as anti-agriculture.

The suit was filed by officials in Missouri last month. It centers around regulations enacted by California voters in 2008. That ballot proposition was backed by the Humane Society of the United States, and passed by a nearly two-to-one margin.

It creates rules for the size of cages for egg-laying hens, to be phased in by 2015.

Heineman and Bruning have been vocal in their opposition to HSUS, calling the organization anti-agriculture.

Heineman said, "We have continually told HSUS that their anti-ag attacks are not welcome in Nebraska."

In a statement, Heineman said, "There is concern that the California egg production standards create a precedent that would negatively impact Nebraska agriculture. This is about protecting Nebraska's farmers and ranchers from the potential for regulatory burdens that hamper interstate trade. It's not only about protecting our egg producers. This is also about the precedent this sets for our beef, swine and dairy producers."

"Nebraska farmers and ranchers have taken great pride in caring for their livestock for generations," said Bruning. "We stand with Nebraska ag producers and will fight HSUS' unconstitutional attempt to dictate farming practices in our state."

Heineman and Bruning say it's "another attempt" by HSUS to harm agriculture, which is Nebraska's number one industry.

However, HSUS has maintained it's about choosing "humane treatment over extreme practices," according to statements on the group's website.

Heineman and Bruning said they are also opposed to legislation approved by the California Legislature that requires all eggs coming into that state to meet the same production standards.

State Ag Director Greg Ibach said Nebraska farmers are worried California's rules could interfere with the sale of eggs.

"That is not to say that we shouldn't be able to create restrictions that protect animal health, for example," Dir. Ibach said. "But the California regulations appear to be more about protecting the market for California farmers."

Nebraska ranks number 12 in the nation for egg production, and is a leading state for production of processed egg products. About 9.2 million hens populate Nebraska's commercial egg laying facilities and produce about 2.7 billion eggs each year.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, cash receipts for the 2.7 billion eggs produced in 2012 totaled about $180 million.