Farm Bill Threatens State Safety Laws

The House of Representative’s farm bill could threaten state animal safety laws, political observers noted earlier this week, pitting local state governments against Congress and leading to further political debate over the role of the federal government.

The congressional brouhaha stems from a California law that goes into effect this month. The law, which is designed to protect the welfare of farm livestock, would require that all eggs sold in California, even those coming from out of state, conform to state animal safety regulations, specifically state laws requiring all hen cages to provide birds enough room to move around and spread their wings.

The fight over egg farms and birdcages is hardly unique to California. Across the country, farmers and animal rights organizations have been struggling to determine acceptable treatment of animals on farms. In some states, animal rights groups like the Humane Society of the U.S. have come to accords with farmers. In other states, animal rights groups used ballot petitions to force animal rights reforms.

Representatives in the House recently approved an amendment to the farm bill that would essentially negate California’s animal rights law by preventing individual states from implementing their own standards on interstate products. According to Iowa Representative Steve King, who authored the amendment, the Constitution’s Commerce Clause already prohibits states from interfering with interstate commerce. “If California wants to regulate eggs that come into the state, fine,” King said. “But don’t be telling the states that are producing a product that’s already approved by the USDA or the FDA how to produce that product.”

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer