A collective voice of over 150 members from the U.S. House has risen in opposition to the Ending Agriculture Trade Suppression (EATS) Act, H.R. 4417/S. 2019. The bill, championed by Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) and Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), has sparked controversy due to its implications for state-level agricultural regulation. A letter expressing this opposition was addressed to U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “G.T.” Thompson (R-Pa.) and Ranking Member David Scott (D-Ga.).
The EATS Act has attracted attention for its potential impact on states' rights in regulating agricultural products sold within their borders. Two influential advocacy groups, the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) and Competitive Markets Action (CMA), have played a role in mobilizing Members of Congress to sign the letter. Support also came from various associations including the Alabama Contract Poultry Growers Association, Kansas Cattlemen’s Association, National Dairy Producers Organization, and Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias, among others.
The EATS Act’s focal point lies in its potential challenge to California's Proposition 12, which establishes housing standards for animals used in pork, veal, and egg production for the state. However, opponents argue that the bill could have far-reaching consequences, jeopardizing numerous state laws pertaining to food safety and public health. Critics also contend that the proposed legislation constitutes an unwarranted federal intrusion into state-level affairs.
The bipartisan group leading the letter, led by Democrat Earl Blumenauer, underscored their belief that federal legislation should not undermine the states' authority in regulating food and agricultural products. Instead, they advocate for a collaborative approach where the federal government supplements rather than overrides state policies on agriculture.
The current farm bill is set to expire on September 30, with a likely need for a short-term extension due to delays in drafting and negotiating the subsequent bill, according to Reuters.
While the EATS Act finds support from the National Pork Producers Council, certain major pork companies have expressed opposition to the bill.
Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird made headlines by leading a coalition of 16 states in urging Congress to pass the EATS Act. Bird emphasized that the bill empowers states to safeguard farmers and ranchers by providing legal tools to contest overreaching regulations. By permitting courts to issue preliminary injunctions while a case is ongoing, the EATS Act aims to ensure the continuity of food markets without disruption during the legal deliberations on a state's new regulations.
Attorney General Bird, a prominent advocate of the EATS Act, reinforced the significance of this legislation, stating, “California needs to keep their hands off our bacon... The EATS Act stops California’s overreach and gives state attorneys general the tools they need to fight for farmers and ranchers. We urge Congress to pass the EATS Act and stand up for livestock producers across the nation."