By now you know I embrace pretty much anything that drives Wayne Pacelle and the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) nuts. Such episodes are nothing if not laugh-making. Likewise anything aggravating to Mercy for Animals, Farm Sanctuary and the rest of the animal rights movement is devoutly to be wished.
The “anything” giving the animal rights folks a fit are the Farm Bills generally because once again Congress foreclosed on all animal rights ag demands, including the ill-advised UEP-HSUS big cage egg layer bill. Specifically egregious to our animal rights friends, however, is language in the House bill, authored by Rep. Steve King (R, IA), that Pacelle’s gang says in myriad email alerts, “warnings,” calls-to-action and fundraising pleas is “one of the most serious threats to animal protection laws ever.”
The King language is aimed at prohibiting state laws governing agriculture production which the Iowa conservative believes mess with interstate commerce, or as King calls it publicly are really “trade protectionism.” Specifically, he’s aiming at a California law – passed in the wake of that state’s 2008 approval of Prop. 2 on happy laying hens – prohibiting the sale of eggs in California if they’re not from hens raised elsewhere exactly as they may one day be in California.
King and broad animal ag have every reason to be miffed at the California law. King represents the largest egg producing district in Iowa, and his folks are shut out of the very large, very lucrative California market. Iowa egg producers’ only alternative would be to dump their current production/housing systems and invest wads of cash in whatever it is California finally deems to be appropriate.
I say “finally deems” because to my knowledge the California Department of Food & Agriculture still hasn’t written regulations implementing Prop 2. Because the ballot language was so vague, the state is operating on a “we’ll-know-it-when-we-see-it” basis. Eggs are plentiful in California, likely produced by farmers using the plethora of egg layer housing systems currently available.
HSUS and its cohorts, along with the National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL), this week briefed the DC press corps on the apocalypse looming for America if the King language becomes part of whatever Farm Bill Congress finally enacts. The NCSL called the King language “a broad preemption of state authority.” At the same time, over 100 members of the House told House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R, OK) in a letter the King language is too broad.
NCSL and the House members evincing concern are very likely correct in that King’s language may be too broadly drawn. A reread of the King language shows it to be pretty sweeping in what it hopes to accomplish. Using the definition of “agricultural product” as embodied in the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 may be overreach, and though it’s obvious King’s focus may be animal production, it’s equally obvious he sees similar threats to other state ag production. King’s goal is laudable and should be supported. He doesn’t say a state can’t pass its own animal production laws, he says a state can’t use those laws to keep other states’ products off their supermarket shelves.
So the language is too broad. Not an insurmountable challenge and the solution was provided by Pacelle himself during his most recent turn this week in front of the media. Pacelle said, “The problem for King is he didn’t limit this to animal welfare. It applies to every agriculture product out there.” Thank you for the insight, Wayne.
King knows how the legislative game is played far better than Pacelle and his band of litigious lawyers/lobbyists, and my guess is King is already more than a couple of steps ahead of HSUS.
King is fully aware we’re only two-thirds of the way through the Farm Bill process. We’ve got a Senate bill, we’ve got a House bill – such as it is – and we’re heading for conference committee in early September. The true legislative magic of Farm Bills happens in conference committee when sections appear and disappear, when language never discussed in committee suddenly takes root in a conference report, and where language in either bill deemed to be a tad overzealous is tempered, reworked and emerges stronger than the original.
Pacelle has embraced the typically arrogant “our-way-or-the-highway” animal rights strategy, demanding of Farm Bill conferees the King language disappear, never to be seen again. King and his broad network of supporters understand politics is the art of the possible; King simply needs to avoid delusions of grandeur and work with the House and Senate conferees on language that solves the very legitimate problem King has identified.
Again, thank you, Wayne.
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