Congress: Don't Trample My Right to Safe Food
Rep. Steve King has introduced an amendment to the U.S. Farm Bill that would undermine the longstanding Constitutional rights of states to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens and local businesses. If passed, it will override vital state laws such as Marylan's ban on arsenic additives in chicken feed. The amendment would also stop state GMO-labeling efforts, and derail farm reform measures such as one just passed in California that seeks to put a stop to overcrowding in poultry cages. For more information, read Delegate Tom Hucker's editorial in the Baltimore Sun.
Sign below to ask your representatives to stop Rep. Steve King's amendment to the Farm BIll.
I am writing today to encourage you to strongly oppose a provision in the House version of the Farm Bill that would undermine the longstanding Constitutional rights of states to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens and local businesses. This provision, introduced as an amendment by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and accepted by the House Agriculture Committee, could nullify hundreds of state and local laws regarding the production or manufacture of agriculture products, including a recently passed law in Maryland to ban the use of arsenic in poultry feed.
Shockingly, the King amendment would force states to allow commerce in products they have banned – no matter how dangerous, unethical, environmentally destructive, or otherwise of concern. As the Supreme Court has made clear, the Commerce Clause allows Congress to regulate commerce; it doesn't give Congress the authority to mandate its creation, nor to require anyone to participate in commerce they find objectionable. The amendment seeks to put each state at the mercy of any other state whose legislature has a differing view about the public health, safety, or welfare associated with a product.
The amendment states:
“The 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.”
Agricultural products are defined as in 7 U.S.C. 1626, which includes “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.”
This provision is an unprecedented and radical assault on the historic power of states to protect health and welfare of their own citizens. It violates the Tenth Amendment’s guarantee that the states’ sovereign rights cannot be abridged by Congress, and tries to eliminate states’ historic police powers within their borders, destroying the fundamental principles of federalism that have guided our nation since its founding.
While the amendment ostensibly seeks to target state animal welfare laws, it is so broad and vague that it could be interpreted to nullify an entire spectrum of state laws dealing with food safety, labeling, labor, and environmental protection. It could trigger expensive court cases about any state law related to agricultural products, from the sale of raw milk, to the labeling of farm-raised fish or artificial sweeteners, to restrictions on firewood transported into a state in order to protect against invasive pests and damage to local forests.
In Maryland, we recently concluded a three-year effort, including a comprehensive summer study of the issue, to pass legislation ensuring that poultry feed sold in the state will be free from arsenic—a common additive that is detected in chicken meat and ends up in chicken litter that used in fertilizer across the state. The General Assembly heard hours of testimony on this issue and carefully weighed the concerns of the industry with the threat to public health and safety, and passed the first law in the country to ensure arsenic will not be used in poultry feed sold in this state. The King amendment would nullify our efforts, and similar efforts in Maryland and across the country, and force our residents to accept a product that the General Assembly deemed to be unsafe.
When agricultural and health policies are passed in Maryland, they are done so after careful deliberation by state legislators and regulatory agencies with input from the public and key stakeholders. That work should not be simply discarded by the U.S. Congress, and the states should not be treated as irrelevant in agriculture policy. I strongly urge you to protect the sovereignty of Maryland and its citizens by opposing this radical federal overreach, and helping to ensure that the final Farm Bill does not include the King amendment.
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