Humane Society continues to urge lawmakers to drop King amendment from farm bill

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2013 - The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) continued its campaign Tuesday against an amendment in the House-passed farm bill that it says would annul several state bans on “inhumane factory farming practices” and rules regulating agricultural practices.

HSUS held a press conference with state legislators to urge congressional lawmakers to strip out the amendment, offered by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, which seeks to prohibit states from enacting laws that place conditions on the means of production for agricultural goods that are sold within its own borders, but are produced in other states.

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The legislative language is not included in the Senate-passed farm bill. The House bill and the Senate bill are expected to be heading toward conference negotiations.

John Goodwin, director of HSUS animal cruelty policy, said the amendment includes a definition of agriculture so broad it would override any state law regulating agricultural products and end-products.

“King has opposed every piece of federal legislation that would protect animals,” Goodwin told reporters during the teleconference. “When states try to implement their own standards, he attempts a radical federal overreach.”

King has argued the U.S. Constitution reserves the regulation of interstate commerce to the Congress, not the states.

“The [amendment] prohibits states from entering into trade protectionism by forcing cost prohibitive production methods on farmers in other states,” King said.

For instance, King argues that current state law in California will require that only eggs from hens housed in cage sizes specified by California be allowed to be sold there by 2015.

“The impact of their large market would compel producers in other states to invest billions to meet the California standard of ‘means of production,'” King said.

King also has said his amendment will “shut down” HSUS and other “radical organizations from creating a network of restrictive state laws that will slowly push agriculture production towards the demise.”

HSUS claims King's amendment, which was adopted by the House Agriculture Committee, would remove numerous state animal protection laws on puppy mills, farm animal confinement, shark finning, horse slaughter, and dog meat, as well as a wide range of other laws related to food safety, environmental protection, worker safety, and labeling.

HSUS noted more than 160 House Democratic and Republican lawmakers have expressed opposition to the amendment in a letter to leadership.

During the teleconference, several state legislators spoke against the King amendment.

Oregon State Sen. Bruce Starr (R) said, “The proper role of state legislatures is to respond to wishes of constituents in their state and pass laws appropriately. It is inappropriate for the Congress to pass federal legislation that basically wipes those laws off the books.”

Illinois State Sen. Pamela Althoff (R) said, “From a state perspective, I have great concerns with the proposed amendment and what it does to my state's ability to respond to my constituency. Historically, states have always had broad powers to regulate power. This amendment would undermine that authority.”

She specifically noted that an Illinois law placing restrictions on imports of firewood to control the emerald ash borer would be affected by the King amendment.

Sarah Gonzalez contributed to this article.

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