IN recent weeks, editorial boards from across the country have taken aim at the King Amendment in the House farm bill.
First introduced in House farm bill discussions in 2012, Rep. Steve King (R, Iowa) tailored a bill for this round to protect the interstate commerce of food and agricultural products.
There was a thorough debate in the House Agriculture Committee after King introduced his amendment. In the end, legislators overwhelmingly voted 33-13 in favor of the bill, which limits states from imposing restrictions on out-of-state agricultural producers.
Noting that "Congress, not the states," regulate interstate commerce, King said his "Protect Interstate Commerce Act prohibits states from entering into trade protectionism by forcing cost-prohibitive production methods on farmers in other states."
Animal rights groups such as The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have taken their agendas to the state level, which has brought about a patchwork of different regulations. The most pressing legislative directive is California's Prop 2, which mandates production standards for not only eggs produced in the state but also those to be sold anywhere in California.
An Aug. 15 Wall Street Journal editorial stated, "Congress does sometimes misuse the (Constitution's) Commerce Clause to justify federal power grabs, but the California egg roll is the sort of interstate trade restriction the Commerce Clause was designed to block. ... (If) California's liberal imperialists want to impose their social and economic agenda on the rest of the country, they have to go through Congress."
However, Wayne Pacelle of HSUS is loudly drumming up opposition to the amendment to make sure "dangerous language in the farm bill" doesn't threaten animal welfare.
In The Hill's "Congress Blog," he wrote, "The King amendment is a sort of legislative kudzu, so invasive and dangerous it could crowd out hundreds of state and local laws setting appropriate standards for agriculture. For the animal welfare movement, to put a fine point on its impact, King's measure could very easily repeal a long list of state laws regarding shark finning, puppy mills, extreme confinement of farm animals and the slaughter and sale of meat from horses, dogs and cats."
Pacelle noted that 166 representatives and 23 senators have written to ag leadership in opposition to the King amendment. The letters assert that the "federal government should play a complementary role to the states on agriculture policy rather than rendering them powerless."
Steve Kopperud, executive vice president of Policy Directions Inc., a Washington government relations firm, said animal rights groups have been able to advance their agenda in recent years by recognizing that if they can't regulate meat producers out of business, they will "cost them out of business." HSUS has been able to do that by confusing the commerce among states.
Animal rights groups have been vocal this month about the need to remove the King amendment from the farm bill, and Kopperud said they've succeeded in exploiting the political confusion surrounding the farm bill.
"It has become their number-one goal to defeat this amendment," Kopperud said, because if the amendment becomes law, it shows that these groups have wasted a lot of money trying to create confusion in the marketplace.