On Monday, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel ruled that the USDA has been improperly inserting itself into California electoral politics by planning advertisements that would advocate against Proposition 2, an initiative on the November 4th ballot. Proposition 2, "Standards for Confining Farm Animals," aims to improve living conditions for veal, egg-laying hens, and pregnant pigs by requiring that they be provided space to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the sponsors of Prop. 2 (which include the Humane Society) used documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act to show that the American Egg Board planned to spend millions in opposition to Prop. 2. The egg board is a government-supervised group that receives its funds from the egg industry but operates within the USDA. Documents presented to the judge indicated that the Secretary of Agriculture approved the expenditures and endorsed the ads. Although the government argued that the advertisements were "neutral and educational," the Humane Society's lawyer convinced the judge that the advertisements were actually endorsing a no vote on Prop. 2. In her ruling, Judge Patel ordered the USDA to avoid spending any funds on advertising in California until after the November 4th election.