Agriculture briefs

Missouri's attorney general has asked a federal court to strike down a California law regulating the living conditions of chickens, setting up a cross-country battle that pits new animal protections against the economic interests of Midwestern farmers.

The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Fresno, is the latest round in battles surrounding Proposition 2, a 2008 voter-approved law that regulates the treatment of laying hens in California.

After passage of the initiative, the state Legislature in 2010 approved a law that essentially places the same rules on out-of-state farms whose eggs are sold in California.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster contends that the law infringes on the interstate commerce protections of the U.S. Constitution by effectively imposing new requirements on out-of-state farmers.

Similar arguments were made in Congress during debate over the farm bill. California officials and other supporters then maintained the law is no different than many others around the country that deal with agriculture and food safety.

Quarantine expanded in bid to save citrus

California officials have expanded a quarantine for a tiny pest that is potentially fatal to citrus trees.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture said Friday it has added 13 square miles to the Asian citrus psyllid quarantine in Tulare County after a psyllid was found in that area. In total, 746 square miles are now under quarantine in the county.

Along with Tulare, the quarantine areas include portions of Fresno, Kern, Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

The psyllid can carry a bacteria that is deadly to citrus trees. It has decimated Florida's citrus industry, though to date in California only one psyllid has tested positive for the bacteria.

The quarantine prohibits the movement of nursery stock. It also requires that citrus fruit be cleaned of leaves and stems.

World Ag Expo this week in Tulare

An estimated 100,000 visitors from 70 countries are expected to attend this week's 47th annual World Ag Expo.

The event, the largest annual agricultural exposition of its kind, will be held Tuesday through Thursday in Tulare. It will feature 1,500 exhibitors and 2.6 million square feet of displays and equipment.

At 12:30 p.m. Thursday, officials for cities and water agencies will discuss the state's current drought at a water forum. It is among more than 40 seminars on beef, dairy, hay and forage, international trade, irrigation and general agriculture.

General admission at the gate is $15.

For a full schedule of events and more information about the show, visit www.WorldAgExpo.org.

Staff and wire reports. Submit items to robert.digitale@pressdemocrat.com.

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