Competition in Congress over the EATS Act is unusual because it’s being played for keeps. Usually, concerns about relationships and the near certainty that a current opponent will be an ally next time mean such disputes are almost always milder than wild.
But the battle royal over the EATS Act has both sides ready to hit the skin off the baseball and various body parts with little or no concern about the consequences.
Freedom Works is the nation’s largest grassroots advocacy organization dedicated to the issues of lower taxes, less government, personal liberty and the rule of law.
“If the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association thinks their recent slanderous personal attacks are working for them, they are dumber than I thought,” said Marty Irby, recently named Chief Operating Officer of Freedom Works. “They’ve only motivated me to work twice as hard to defeat the EATS Act and see the enactment of the OFF Act.”
The OFF Act seeks to prohibit so-called wasteful, anti-competitive, and deceptive behavior from checkoff boards that promote and research various agricultural products. The NCBA president said Irby “has turned FreedomWorks into a lobbying machine for the OFF Act and for ending our way of life.”
It was barely started when Todd Wilkinson, the South Dakota cattle producer who is the current president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, took on Irby.
As it turned out, the OFF Act was a kick-off for the main event, whether the EATS Act makes it into the 2023 Farm Bill, which will not make the Sept. 30 deadline. That’s when the existing Farm Bill expires. Whether Congress can adopt a new Farm Bill before the current Congress expires is now the question.
The EATS Act is said to pit “family farmers” against agribusiness, but it isn’t that simple. Major organizations like NCBA, the Pork Producers Council, the National Farm Bureau Federation, and others all have plenty of “family farmers” on their membership rolls.
After Proposition 12 was upheld by the conservative Supreme Court, mostly farm-state Republicans created the EATS Act to prevent California from imposing its animal housing requirements on other states. California’s Prop 12 closes the state’s marketplace to products that do not adhere to its standards.
Irby also serves as the elected secretary of the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), which has lobbied non-corporate forces against the EATS Act. He’s attacked Republican Sen. Roger Marshall for introducing the EATS Act. “It is very rare for us to aim directly at a senator,” he said. “But we feel Marshall’s EATS Act is the most egregious of attacks against independent family farmers we’ve ever seen by a U.S. Senator.”
NCBA and Freedom Works are based in the Denver metro area, and any quick look would conclude that the two organizations have a lot in common. But Wilkinson outed Irby, a former congressional staffer, as an animal rights activist “infiltrating conservative organizations” who is no friend of animal agriculture.
At issue is the Ending Agriculture Trade Suppression Act or the EATS Act, which unlike almost all other trade bills, isn’t putting people to sleep.
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