If police officers, firefighters, farm workers, organic consumer groups, animal welfare advocates, state governments, almost 200 bipartisan members of Congress and a host of other organizations rose up in unison to oppose one thing, you’d sit up and take notice, right?
Then take notice, America. That’s exactly what’s going on right now as Congress returns from recess to take up the Farm Bill.
While much of the opposition has focused on the ghastly impact this provision would have on animal welfare, that’s not the only problem here — not by a long shot.
What is the King Amendment?
In a nutshell, the King Amendment would prevent states from applying their own regulatory agricultural standards to agricultural products made or produced in other states. For example, the California ban on eggs from battery-caged chickens would not apply to eggs brought in from, say, Iowa. Iowa’s eggs could be freely (and more cheaply) sold in California, neatly sidestepping California’s rules and putting California egg producers at an economic disadvantage in their own state.
Indeed, it was the passing of California’s Proposition 2, which banned the sale of eggs from inhumanely caged chickens, that prompted Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to propose this amendment to the Farm Bill in the first place. His proposed amendment to the Farm Bill would say:
“[T]he government of a State or locality therein shall not impose a standard or condition on the production or manufacture of any agricultural product sold or offered for sale in interstate commerce if (1) such production or manufacture occurs in another State; and (2) the standard or condition is in addition to the standards and conditions applicable to such production or manufacture pursuant to (A) Federal law; and (B) the laws of the State and locality in which such production or manufacture occurs.”
To comprehend the far reaching impact of these words, it’s important to understand the definition of “agricultural products.” They include:
“agricultural, horticultural, viticultural, and dairy products, livestock and poultry, bees, forest products, fish and shellfish, and any products thereof, including processed and manufactured products, and any and all products raised or produced on farms and any processed or manufactured product thereof.”
Now stop and consider the ramifications. If the King Amendment becomes law, says Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, it will obliterate “every state, county or local law that creates any standard or condition relating to an agricultural production activity — so we’d have no state laws for agricultural facilities relating to worker rights, animal welfare, environmental protection or public health.” Pacelle is, by far, not the only one with this view.
That’s right. State, county and local laws that have anything to do with “agricultural production” — enacted in many cases because you voted for them – wouldn’t be worth the paper they’re printed on anymore.
45 Reasons (and Counting) Why You Need to Care
You say you’re not a farmer, so why should you care?
Take a look at this list of 45 or so state agricultural-related laws. Are any of these things important to you? The King Amendment would allow other states’ products, produced under more lenient rules, to be sold in your state, overriding your own state laws regarding:
- Use of dangerous pesticides on crops (California);
- Arsenic in poultry feed (Maryland);
- Rules on raw milk, milk fat and milk solids (Iowa);
- Standards pertaining to alcohol production, such as those concerning:
- Container sterilization,
- Age limits for alcohol manufacturers’ employees;
- Tobacco laws, including laws requiring cigarettes to meet fire safety standards;
- Labeling of:
- Farm-raised fish (Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Washington),
- Artificial sweeteners (Iowa),
- Maple syrup (New Hampshire);
- Alcohol, distiller’s grains and other products (South Dakota);
- Rules on firewood transported into the state in order to protect against invasive pests and damage to local forests (Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Wisconsin);
- Shipment of Christmas trees (California, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia);
- Labeling requirements and germination standards for seeds (New York, Georgia, Iowa, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Rhode Island);
- Listing of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm, and notification of significant amounts of chemicals in products (California, Vermont);
- State pollution standards, such as:
- Bans on spraying sewage on crops directly before they are fed to people,
- Requirements for lagoon siting, wastewater discharge and use of licensed sludge applicators (Minnesota);
- Agricultural employment, including:
- Child labor laws,
- Standards for inspections and certifications,
- Health and safety standards for agricultural employees involving use of dangerous farm machinery, field sanitation, exposure to pesticides, respiratory hazards, heat-illness and hearing loss prevention (Washington);
- Animal welfare laws restricting practices:
- Intensive confinement of animals on larg farms, such as:
- Chicken battery cages (California, Michigan),
- Veal crates (Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Rhode Island),
- Pig gestation crates (Ohio, Florida, Rhode Island, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, Arizona, California);
- Puppy mills (Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Oregon, Washington),
- Tail docking of cows (California, Ohio, Rhode Island),
- Horse slaughter (California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas),
- Killing sharks for their fins (Hawaii, Oregon, Illinois, California, Washington),
- Selling dog, cat and horse meat (California)
- Intensive confinement of animals on larg farms, such as:
Find out who’s objecting to the King Amendment and why on the next page
Who‘s Objecting and Why?
Smart, savvy people with good reason to worry are weighing in with energetic force on this issue:
National Fraternal Order of Police – On behalf of 330,000 FOP members, president Chuck Canterbury wrote that the Farm Bill amendment “would allow for the proliferation of puppy mills, dog and cock fighting, kill shelters and other animal cruelties” and would make it harder for law enforcement to combat the increase in the “criminal enterprises that often go along with these activities.”
22 Fire and Emergency Services Organizations - These organizations wrote collectively to the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees urging them to oppose the amendment because it would “nullify the cigarette fire safety performance standards that the fire service fought so hard to implement in each of our 50 states because tobacco is defined as an agriculture product. The individual states of this nation have taken it upon themselves to address a significant public safety issue and their important work should not be undone by the United States Congress.”
National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) – The president and president-elect of the NCSL wrote to the leaders of the House and Senate Agricultural Committees that “States have used [their Tenth Amendment] sovereignty to enact laws that protect their citizens from invasive pests and livestock diseases, maintain quality standards for all agricultural products and ensure food safety and unadulterated seed products. The King Amendment, not only violates the tenets of the Tenth Amendment, but would also have significant economic effects across the states.”
Diverse Coalition of Non-profits and Citizens‘ Groups – An incredible 80 different groups signed one letter objecting to the amendment and calling it an”unprecedented assault on [the] historic power of states to protect [the] health and welfare of their own citizens.” These groups say the amendment tries to force states to authorize the purely local sale and consumption of ‘any agricultural product’ – no matter how dangerous, unethical, environmentally destructive, or otherwise of concern.”
Congressional Opposition – There is strong bipartisan Congressional opposition, too. Both Republicans and Democrats are standing up to oppose this amendment. A total of 166 members of the House signed a Democratic letter or a Republican letter of objection aimed at their Agriculture Committee leadership, while 23 Senators signed a strongly worded group letter to the Senate’s Ag Committee leaders.
“I‘m Tired of States Doing This Crap”
Usually, like most conservatives, Rep. King asserts that the federal government ought to keep its big nose out of affairs that are rightly those of the states to decide. That was his position when in 2012 he opposed making it a federal crime to take a child to a dogfight. This time, conveniently, he’s arguing exactly the opposite.
Rep. King, by the way, had help coming up with this terrible amendment from Rep. Collin Peterson (R-Minn.), ranking member of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee. Peterson’s reason? He said, “After… being lobbied by all these egg people and every other damn thing going on, I think it’s the best solution myself. I’m tired of these states doing this crap.”
Hear that, states? Rep. Peterson is tired of your “crap” animal welfare laws.
It is well established that Rep. King is no animal welfare fan. Rather, his support falls squarely with Big Agriculture, which contributes handsomely to his campaigns. Fortunately, only the House version of the Farm Bill contains King’s amendment. It is not included in the Senate version. The two houses must meet this month to hammer out a final version.
Are you hating the King Amendment yet? Thought so.
If you‘d like to add your voice to the many who want Congress to remove this truly terrible provision from the final version of the Farm Bill, sign this petition. It will go directly to the four senior members of the House and Senate Agricultural Committees and will ask them to remove the King Amendment from the final version of the Farm Bill.
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