Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has defended the King amendment, saying  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is wrong for being skeptical of the amendment that is part of the ongoing farm bill negotiations. The King amendment  has the potential to nullify more than 150 state laws affecting agriculture, including  California's Proposition 2, which aims at ending the use of battery cages for laying hens.

The State of California and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) are among the entities that have opposed the King amendment, proposed by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

Vilsack, on November 18, said the amendment was "frankly a bit troublesome," adding it would create legal challenges and confusion in the marketplace. Northey looks at the King amendment differently.

"It is very troublesome that Secretary Vilsack appears to be siding with California and HSUS rather than standing up for all farmers producing legal and safe agriculture products, said Northey, also an Iowa Republican. "I would hope and expect Secretary Vilsack to be supportive of laws that ensure consumers have access to legal and safe products.  USDA inspectors approve the sale of egg products.  If eggs are safe to be sold in Iowa and around the country they should be able to be sold in California; that is all this amendment is trying to assure. California should not be allowed to dictate production methods to the rest of the country. This has the makings of an internal U.S. trade war. If it starts with eggs, you can be sure it won't end with eggs."

The King amendment is included in the farm bill approved by the House, but it is excluded from the Senate version of the farm bill. The farm bill is presently being hashed out by a conference committee, consisting of members from each house. Northey said if Vilsack truly has concerns about the King amendment, he should work to address them while the farm bill is in conference committee instead of speaking out against it.