A midnight egg amendment creates a Constitutional quandary

posted at 6:31 pm on July 15, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

On July 1st, a new state law went into effect in California banning the sale and production of foie gras. For those not inclined to exploring the sometimes unsavory truths behind perhaps unfamiliar culinary delicacies, foie gras is a traditional French food made out of the especially silky-textured livers of geese or ducks that have been force-fed grain to fatten them up. Animal rights activists have never been fans of the practice (even though suppliers claim that the production looks painful to the animals, but isn’t — ducks and geese don’t have digestive tracts comparable to humans’), and California as a state decided they didn’t much like the idea, either.

The law doesn’t seem to have much efficacy to me, although it looks like local producers could still sell foie gras if it was made without force-feeding the animals (although it would presumably be less delicious). For instance, what’s to stop restaurants from importing foie gras from France and serving it for free along with pricey pieces of toast?), and I don’t believe any government anywhere should be involved in making such trifling rules over people’s personal choices. But, oh well — that’s federalism, I guess. The states are in control of all powers not designated to the federal government in the Constitution, and if California’s legislature really wants to go there, that’s their choice. If people decide the costs of residing in a certain state outweigh the benefits, they can leave, which encourages states to compete for the best policy prescriptions.

But here’s the rub: How does the foie gras ban mesh with the federal government’s power to regulate interstate commerce? Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) doesn’t seem to think that it does:

King, in a midnight vote, got an amendment attached to the 2012 farm bill aimed at stopping a California law banning the sale of eggs harvested from hens living in tiny cages where they cannot spread their wings. It also stops the law from banning the sale of foie gras made using forced feeding.

The lawmaker’s move infuriated animal-rights activists because it hurt their attempts to secure better living conditions for the animals.

But the California legislature also applied the egg restrictions to imported eggs after local farmers argued they were at a competitive disadvantage.

King argues states can’t make such a ban, saying states can’t apply a law to imported products on the grounds that only the federal government can regulate interstate commerce under the Constitution. …

Pacelle said the amendment was poorly crafted and could have the effect of stopping states from regulating products sold only within those states.

The wording of the amendment forbids states to “impose a standard or condition on the production or manufacture of any agricultural product sold or offered for sale in interstate commerce” if “such production or manufacture occurs in another state.”

Iiiiinteresting. Who would’ve thought that just another California nanny-state, animal-rights-driven regulation could spark such a debate? The amendment really would have far-reaching implications for a lot of players, and there are plenty of food producers, lobbies, and agribusinesses with dogs in the fight.

France, meanwhile, is responding in kind. I wouldn’t say the French are really known for putting up much of a fight (while most of Europe teeters on the brink of financial collapse, they’re happily electing more Socialists into public office — go figure), but when it comes to food-related matters, they can apparently be pretty touchy.

A political official in southern France is urging the nation’s restaurants to stop serving California wines in response to the U.S. state’s ban on foie gras. …

“I call on all the restaurants in France that sell Californian wine to stop doing so in a show of solidarity for our foie gras makers and, more broadly, for all food makers,” said Philippe Martin, the president of the general council in the Gers department, near the Pyrenees mountains. …

“This won’t have severe impact on the Gers region trade balance, let alone the French trade, or the California trade balance, but we had to send a strong signal because we think this is an unfair measure,” Martin said yesterday in a telephone interview.


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hmmm…so that “interstate commerce clause” can be used by both parties…

here’s an idea…let’s use that commerce clause like a club so well..that the other side will sign on to a constitutional amendment restricting it.

it’s like..trying to get a ban on guns..by handing more guns to the bad guys! create the problem, then propose the solution!

this script sounds SO familiar…..I wonder where I’ve heard it before…

warhorse_03826 on July 15, 2012 at 11:41 PM

CW,

First, the states guarantee individual rights in their charters. One of the best is Virginia:

I. That all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter into a state of society, they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

Second, the whole purpose of the Constitution was to better secure our rights:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution

The ninth Amendment:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

And the fifteenth Amendment:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State

AshleyTKing on July 16, 2012 at 12:03 AM

In other words, the states were not unlimited sovereigns before the Revolution, nor during the Articles of Confederation, nor have they been since the Union.

AshleyTKing on July 16, 2012 at 12:05 AM

The states were never ‘unlimited’ sovereigns, before the revolution they were subjects of King George III and after the revolution their sovereignity was limited to those things not delegated to the Federal Government or to the people. Read the 10th Amendment it spells it out quite well.

Brown James on July 16, 2012 at 12:37 AM

How did they find out how to make this stuff? Force fed animals don’t occur naturally. Most people try to minimize their expenses, not drive them up by force feeding their livestock.

Doesn’t much matter to me anyway because I am on a vegetarian diet. I only eat vegetarians; cows, horses, goats, rabbits and neighbors.

If you know any vegetarians I have an opening on Thursday.

The Rock on July 16, 2012 at 12:49 AM

Brown James on July 16, 2012 at 12:37 AM

Correct.

AshleyTKing on July 16, 2012 at 12:50 AM

“Liver free, or die!”

Kenz on July 16, 2012 at 1:01 AM

Most people try to minimize their expenses, not drive them up by force feeding their livestock.

The Rock on July 16, 2012 at 12:49 AM

“Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.” Luke 15:23.

pedestrian on July 16, 2012 at 1:51 AM

You know…..

the aliens are coming to evaporate all socialist progressive liberals, communists, and the like.

Poof.

You won’t be missed, and we’ll eat whatever we want.

Wolfmoon on July 16, 2012 at 2:22 AM

Next thing you know, they will be banning caviar because it is mean to mother fish!
What makes me laugh is that this won’t impact people who love their liverwurst, but it will impact the limousine liberals, and lord knows, they NEED a good spanking from their nanny state.

Ohio Granny on July 16, 2012 at 6:29 AM

But, oh well — that’s federalism, I guess. The states are in control of all powers not designated to the federal government in the Constitution, and if California’s legislature really wants to go there, that’s their choice.

It may be their choice but, if right to property means anything then it cannot be just. Madison and the boys deferred to the states for all “other powers” but there’s little doubt in my mind they would support property rights violations as part of that delegated authority.

Ducks and foi grois are property, folks. And the only one with a right to the foi grois and the factors of its production is the person that made it. Curtailing by gov’t fiat (state or otherwise) the production of any good is to abridge the rights of the individuals who own the goods.

beselfish on July 16, 2012 at 6:41 AM

Of what earthly purpose is the ‘farm policy’ of the federal government and the USDA?

Beyond being a payoff machine to Big Ag and Monsanto, that is…

If the States want to screw up their local economy, let ‘em. Just so long as legal products aren’t banned from crossing State lines the States should be able to do as they please. Mind you a black market on foie gras and cheap chicken eggs would be a hoot… not often you see criminals dealing in both luxury foods and commodity foods, but if that is the sort of criminals the States want to encourage, let ‘em.

Power does not bestow competence.

All governments of any sort demonstrate this, no end.

ajacksonian on July 16, 2012 at 6:57 AM

SO just how big a problem is this? I’ve never had it, and I don’t recall ever seeing it on a menu where I’ve been!! Here’s the State of California, in debt up to its eyeballs, worrying about this. You really have to wonder.

bflat879 on July 16, 2012 at 7:33 AM

Food fight!

tinkerthinker on July 16, 2012 at 8:42 AM

You refer to this “Consistution” as if it were somehow relevant or applicable in New America.

CrustyB on July 16, 2012 at 8:48 AM

“Liver free, or die!”

Kenz on July 16, 2012 at 1:01 AM

Nice!

TugboatPhil on July 16, 2012 at 9:34 AM

If they cannot have fois gras, (let them eat brioche) “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”

Are you able to eat the duck or do you have to throw the rest away with the organ meats? Such a waste. It is all plus gras pour moi. I am saving my calories for ice cream, fudge sauce and profiteroles.

You would think there would be some other more friendly way to fatten up a duck, I bet nobody has looked for it.

My favorite, really is Mother Goose brand liverwurst, so I don’t need the fois gras.

For the same reason I don’t eat les crotins de goat cheese. Look it up.

Fleuries on July 16, 2012 at 9:35 AM

Just to be cranky, let me ask a question.

Why would any sane person want to ingest an animal organ that has a primary purpose of processing and removing toxins and waste products from the host animal?

And pay astronomically high prices for the privilege of eating what is essentially toxic waste?

Yuck.

platypus on July 16, 2012 at 9:36 AM

Give me pâté de foie gras, or give me death!
BTW, why would anyone in France want to drink a California wine? Been there.
Just Curious
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on July 16, 2012 at 11:26 AM

Just to be cranky, let me ask a question.

Why would any sane person want to ingest an animal organ that has a primary purpose of processing and removing toxins and waste products from the host animal?

And pay astronomically high prices for the privilege of eating what is essentially toxic waste?

Yuck.

platypus on July 16, 2012 at 9:36 AM

The toxins don’t just sit there. The body eventually filters and removes the wastes entirely. Its a myth that it just builds up toxins.

Aside from that its very good source of iron and other minerals. Its biggest danger is high cholesterol.

RAB on July 16, 2012 at 11:31 AM

Yuck.

platypus on July 16, 2012 at 9:36 AM

Try it, you’ll like it!
Incredibly delicious.
~(Ä)~

Karl Magnus on July 16, 2012 at 11:39 AM

…(while most of Europe teeters on the brink of financial collapse, they’re happily electing more Socialists into public office — go figure)

And we’re any better??

JSobon on July 16, 2012 at 11:55 AM

All the wines in France are, in a sense, “California wines” – we supplied them with pest-resistant root stock after their wine industry collapsed.

mojo on July 16, 2012 at 1:06 PM

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