The soon-to-expire Farm Bill is now at risk from an agriculture civil war that has broken out over the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act. While Congress remains on its summer recess, the battle over the EATS Act seems to produce hourly developments.

The only thing that might keep the EATS Act from blowing up the Farm Bill is that the 2023 Farm Bill does not yet exist, even in draft form though the current 5-year Farm Bill expires Sept. 30.

Farm state congressional delegations do not expect the 2023 Farm Bill to be passed by that Sept. 30 deadline; instead, the best hopes are for the $1.5 trillion bill to be passed and signed by the President by the end of 2023.  The bill supports farmers and ranchers and provides nutritional assistance for low-income people.

In the meantime, a heated dispute about the EATS Act continues.

On Monday,  171 bipartisan members of Congress sent a letter to House Ag Committee Chairman Glenn Thompson, R-PA, and Ranking Member David Scott, D-GA., opposing the inclusion of the  EATS Act in the upcoming Farm Bill. The letter was organized by Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick from Pennsylvania and Oregon Democrat Rep. Earl Blumenauer. 

“We write today expressing our strong opposition to including H.R. 4417, the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act, or any similar legislation in the 2023 Farm Bill. Modeled after former Representative Steve King’s amendment, which was intensely controversial and ultimately excluded from the final 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills, the EATS Act could harm America’s small farmers, threaten numerous state laws, and infringe on the fundamental rights of states to establish laws and regulations within their borders,” the Congressional letter says.

“This is not a case of California imposing its standards on other states. Producers in any state can choose not to supply another state’s consumers or to segregate animals for different markets. Pork industry economists noted this in an amicus brief, writing, ‘Only those producers for which compliance with Proposition 12 is economically beneficial will choose to do so, while all others will continue to supply the vast majority of the North American pork market beyond California’s border and face little or no economic impact,’” it continued.

Animal activists oppose the EATS Act because they don’t want to lose ground. They won in 2018 and since by voters and affirmed earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The EATS Act came in response to the conservative  Court’s 5-to-4 ruling that California may restrict access to its market on non-discriminatory terms.

The EATS Act opposition is warning congressional leaders to keep it would the Farm Bill, less it becomes a “Poison Pill.” 

Sen. Roger Marshall, R-KS, and Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-IA, are sponsors of the EATS Act.  Marshall has said radical animal rights activists want California to tell Kanas or Iowa farmers how to raise pigs.  Next, Marshall says they will be “telling us we can’t grown GMO corn.”

But those animal activists point to at least one study claiming that the EATS Act could “overturn” troves of state laws, creating an oversight regulatory vacuum

The EATS Act negates state laws that impact other states’ agriculture operations.

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