So-called “King Amendment” a hot topic in Farm Bill discussions


November 1st, 2013 by Ric Hanson

Iowa Congressman Steve King — one of the negotiators in congress trying to strike a final Farm Bill deal — is pushing for that deal to include one of his ideas. The so-called “King Amendment” would bar one state from imposing production standards on agricultural products that come from another state. “California passed a law…that mandates that beginning 2015 no eggs be brought into or sold in the state unless they are laid by hens that are raised in facilities that are effectively double the infrastructure costs to our producers,” King says.

That California law, passed as the result of a statewide referendum in 2008, requires cages to be large enough to allow egg-laying hens to stand and spread their wings. Iowa is the nation’s top egg-producing state and, according to King, California’s law would effectively prohibit Iowa eggs from being sold there.  “The commerce clause in the constitution prohibits trade protectionism between the states,” King says. Some states have or are considering regulating the size of the pens or crates in which pigs and calves are raised and King’s proposal could deal with those as well.

Critics, like Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader, say the “King Amendment” violates state’s rights. “Another state from outside of your jurisdiction, your home state, can basically decide to low-ball you, do all sorts of hybrid practices that can harm your community economically, maybe public health wise and you have no recourse,” Schrader says. California Congressman Jeff Denham says state laws that regulate the sale of raw milk or how diseases in livestock herds are managed could be nullified by the “King Amendment.”

“The amendment takes away important authorities from states and gives them exclusively to the federal government,” Denham says. “The 10th amendment of the U.S. Constitution firmly establishes states’ rights.” King says his proposal ensures there is “free trade” among the 50 states. “We need to draw the line now, while we still can,” King says. The Senate version of the Farm Bill that passed on a bipartisan vote in June does not include King’s proposal and the chair of the Senate Ag Committee opposes it, too.

Groups representing fire fighters object to King’s amendment, saying it could prevent state regulation of cigarettes since tobacco is an agricultural product. King counters his idea will protect the nation’s farmers from an emerging patchwork of state regulations.

(Radio Iowa)