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King Amendment Out of Bounds

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Los Angeles Times’ Kim Geiger reports that the amendment added by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to the House Agriculture Committee’s draft of the farm bill could "block states from imposing their own standards for agriculture products on producers from other states" and "jeopardize California laws to protect chickens."

Gieger writes:

The panel’s amendment to the farm bill was a response to a California law, which will take effect in 2015, that requires that all eggs sold in the state be produced by hens held in cages big enough to allow the chickens to stand and spread their wings. The amendment, if it becomes law, would prevent the state from applying this standard to eggs from other states…

“It is exactly the sort of thing that’s done at midnight on a Wednesday night,” said Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group. “We’ve never seen anything that would so profoundly threaten the ability of states to protect consumers, farmers and the environment.”

In a blog post titled “Audacity of Scope,” EWG’s Chief of Staff and General Counsel Heather White argues that the King amendment wouldn’t be limited to overturning the California law.

Specifically, the amendment would “prohibit any state or local government” from “impos[ing] a standard or condition on the production or manufacture of any agricultural product sold or offered for sale in interstate commerce” if 1) production of the agricultural product also occurs in another state; and 2) the standard is in addition to the production or manufacture to federal law and the laws of the state is which such production occurs.”  This impenetrable language simply means that states would be prevented from regulating just about any agricultural product in commerce – contrary to the well-grounded constitutional principles of state police power to protect the health and safety of its citizens within the state.

This sweeping provision would severely undermine all states’ authority to set standards for environmental protection, food safety or animal welfare.   It would apply to genetically engineered food labeling, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) regulation, antibiotics use in meat and other local and state food and farm regulations.

The King amendment’s definition of “agricultural products” would cover fruits, vegetables, plants, dairy, fish, livestock poultry and forest products, including processed and manufactured forms. The amendment could void state regulations on forestry, fish farming or water quality — even if the citizens of that state passed a ballot initiative demanding government action.

Click here to read White’s full analysis.

Table Scraps:

Also on AgMag, EWG’s Scott Faber analyzes a recent report on the federal crop insurance program and why it is bad for taxpayers and for the environment.

An editorial in the Detroit Free Press criticizes a farm bill provision that would tighten eligibility standards for federal nutrition assistance programs, noting that it “simply axes people out of the program.” The editorial adds, “this is particularly hard to stomach when the House committee has gone much further than the Senate bill in continuing to cushion several crops.”

Politico has a story on House Speaker John Boehner’s reluctance to bring a farm bill to the House floor and the mounting pressure he faces from Agriculture Committee leaders.

Tweet of the Day:

??@grist Insult to injury: How the House snuck protection for GMOs into their farm bill http://bit.ly/NurHXY

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