By DOUG SCHMITZ
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A group of Republican senators recently re-introduced legislation they said would preserve the exclusive right of states and local governments to regulate agricultural practices within their own respective jurisdictions, free from interference from other states.
The Exposing Agricultural Trade Suppression Act – first introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate in August 2021 – is in response to the U.S. Supreme Court recently upholding California’s Proposition 12. This new legislation would ultimately prevent large states from regulating farmers and ranchers outside of their borders.
Drafted by U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, the proposed bill is being sponsored by U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley R-Iowa; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas; Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska; Kevin Cramer, R-North Dakota; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Eric Schmitt, R-Missouri; Ted Budd, R-North Carolina; and Bill Hagerty, R-Tennessee.
“The United States is constantly faced with non-tariff trade barriers from protectionist countries, hurting American agriculture’s access to new markets,” Marshall said. “This is a matter of state’s rights.”
U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, will be leading this effort in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Our farmers take great care of their animals and ensure families have safe, affordable, and high-quality food on the table,” she said. “I am proud to work with Sen. Marshall on the EATS Act to ensure farmers can continue to feed the nation and protect interstate commerce.”
California Proposition 12 prohibits the sale of pork from hogs whose mothers were raised on farms – anywhere in the world – that does not comply with the state’s standards; it also applies to any uncooked pork sold in the state, whether produced there or outside its borders.
In addition, Proposition 12 requires whole pork meat to be born to a sow that was housed with 24 square feet of space and in conditions that allow a sow to turn around without touching an enclosure; if pork is sold and doesn’t meet the requirements, it will be a criminal offense and civil violation.
“California’s Proposition 12 is going to hurt the economy of Iowa, which is number one in pork production,” Grassley said. “Because we farm differently than the eggheads of California think we ought to run our animal agriculture, we can’t sell our product there.”
National Pork Producers Council officials said Proposition 12 will increase consumer food prices and drive small farmers out of business; the Des Moines, Iowa-based farm group supports developing a long-term solution to Proposition 12 that ensures “affordable, healthy products remain available to all Americans.”
“We appreciate the senators for working constructively to find a legislative solution to the challenges presented by California Proposition 12,” said Bryan Humphries, National Pork Producers Council CEO. “Proposition 12 will have a significant impact on pork producers and consumers across the country.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Pork Producers Council previously argued Proposition 12 violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which restricts states from regulating commerce outside their borders.
The brief, National Pork Producers Council v. Ross, states Proposition 12 “will require massive and costly changes across the entire $26-billion-a-year industry. And it inescapably projects California’s policy choices into every other state, a number of which expressly permit their farmers to house sows in ways inconsistent with Proposition 12.”
Mary-Thomas Hart, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association chief counsel, said, “The fractured opinion issued by the Supreme Court in National Pork Producers Council v. Ross creates a slippery slope that puts our successful interstate economy at risk, by putting complete control in the hands of our largest states.
“The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association supports the EATS Act as a tool to give impacted farmers and ranchers relief from state standards that create new costs and regulatory burden,” she added.
Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau president, said, “We are grateful lawmakers are seeking ways to ensure grocery store shelves and meat cases across the country do not go bare, and that farmers and ranchers have open access to reach all American consumers.”
On June 13, Republican governors from 11 states – Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia – representing 54 percent of the nation’s pork production, signed a joint letter endorsing the EATS Act, and are calling on Congress to pass the proposed legislation.
“Despite California’s reliance on its fellow states for food, Proposition 12 threatens to disrupt the very system Californians depend on for their pork supply,” the governors said. “Its strict, activist-drafted requirements for pig farming sharply depart from the practices which are lawful in our states.”
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, who led the letter to Congress, said, “California’s onerous requirements will pass the buck to American consumers – worsening the inflationary crisis gripping our economy. It’s time for Congress to use their power and allow pork producers around the country to do what they do best.”