Skip to comments.Farm bill takes aim at state animal welfare laws
Posted on 11/19/2013 3:22:21 AM PST by Olog-hai
The future of state laws that regulate everything from the size of a hens cage to the safe consumption of Gulf oysters may be at stake as farm bill negotiators work to resolve a long-simmering fight between agriculture and animal welfare interests.
The House Agriculture Committee added language to its version of the farm bill earlier this year that says a state cannot impose certain production standards on agricultural products sold in interstate commerce. The provision, authored by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, is aimed at a California law that will require all eggs sold in the state to come from hens that inhabit cages in which they can spread their wingsa major burden for egg producers in Iowa and other states who dont use large cages and still want to sell eggs to the lucrative California market. The law goes into effect in 2015.
But opponents say that depending on how the language is interpreted, the provision could lead to challenges of dozens of other state lawsincluding some aimed at food safety, fire safety and basic consumer protections.
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Can it be? A breath of common sense in the animal rights wacko laws that are overreaching into every aspect of food production? I hope the Kalifornioa wackjobs enjoy their $10 a dozen eggs if this bill fails.
It would put them to the test,
If the farmers took a rest,
The farmer feeds us all
(From an old Bobby Bare song)
I see two circumstances here that need consideration. Exports vs. imports. And the bias needs to be for states rights, as well as commercial rights.
To start with, interstate commerce is in the constitutional authority of the federal government (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3).
Then, dating from the Lincoln administration, a Supreme Court *interpretation* (not decision) created the idea of “corporate civil rights”. Lincoln embraced this, because states had been abusing interstate corporations, especially the railroads, to impose taxes and intolerable restrictions on them. In particular, a state wanted to force a railroad to use a switch yard in that state the railroad did not need; but also to use an outdated technology which would require hiring many railroad workers in that state.
Since then, corporate civil rights have come to dominate business law.
So in the California case, the courts will likely determine that California cannot impose any rules on manufacturers or farmers in other states, unless an objective difference can be found in one manufacturer’s product than another.
That is, if a double blind test can identify that eggs from chickens in large cages are measurably different from eggs from chickens in small cages, only then can California ban one of the two. Otherwise it is being “prejudicial” to the civil rights of one corporation.
Importantly, this applies to imports. If California exports a product, it can set rules on the production of that product, and other states are stuck with “take it or leave it” with that product, assuming it does not infringe on the ICC.
This is a tough one. The states should be able to pass their own agriculture laws, but not to the detriment of the other states.