Farm Bill Amendment Could Impact Animal Treatment in FL

By: Stephanie Carroll Carson

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Lawmakers are putting many “eggs” in the Farm Bill “basket” in Washington, one of which could affect the welfare of farm animals, worker safety and environmental protection in Florida and around the nation.

The amendment, sponsored by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, would prevent Florida from enforcing its state law banning pig gestation crates, in which animals are raised in extremely close quarters.

King’s amendment works against progress already made for more humane treatment of animals, said Paul Shapiro, vice president for farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States.

“Many major pork buyers like McDonald’s have said that they too want to adopt similar policies within their own pork supply chains,” Shapiro said, “and Congressman King wants to erase those state laws, like Florida’s.”

If the amendment were to pass, only the federal government could make laws establishing animal welfare practices for the agriculture industry. However, Shapiro said, no pending federal legislation would replace state laws pre-empted by the amendment.

“Normally, when Congress pre-empts a state law, it’s in order to replace it with a uniform national standard,” he said. “In this case, Congressman King wants to get rid of the state regulations, whether or not they’re conflicting, and replace it with nothing.”

Shapiro called the language “vague” and said it could have wide-reaching effects, not only on factory farms but regulations about food safety, environmental protection and worker safety. He said he believes it’s important for states to maintain the right to create legislation when they see it’s necessary.

“Congressman King wants to take away the states’ right to do just that,” Shapiro said. “This could erase a swath of state rules that regulate the sale of various agricultural products.”

Florida was the first state to ban the use of pig gestation crates in 2002. Since then, eight other states have followed with similar laws.

Supporters of King’s amendment, the Protect Interstate Commerce Act, say having different laws for each state makes it difficult for large-scale producers.

The House is expected to take up the Farm Bill and King’s amendment today

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