Stating that “pork producers, not animal-right activists, lawmakers or regulators, should make the decisions about what production practices are best for their animals and for producing safe food,” Neil Dierks, CEO of the National Pork Producers Council, in congressional testimony on July 25 pledged the organization’s support for legislation that would prohibit a state from imposing tax or regulatory burdens on businesses, including pork operations, that are not physically present in the state.
The ‘‘No Regulation Without Representation Act of 2017,’’ H.R. 2887, introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., would stop states from adopting laws and regulations that ban the sale of out-of-state products that don’t meet their criteria.
Massachusetts, for example, last year approved a ballot initiative that outlaws in the state the use of gestation stalls for housing sows, battery cages for egg-laying hens and crates for veal calves and prohibits the sale of out-of-state pork, eggs and veal from animals kept in the banned housing. The California Legislature in 2010 adopted a similar sales prohibition after voters in the state in 2008 approved a nearly identical ban on animal housing.
NPPC has fought such bans, which have been pushed by animal-rights groups. Nine states have banned, through legislation or ballot measures, gestation stalls, battery cages and veal crates, but only California and Massachusetts extended the bans to sales in their state of products produced anywhere in the country that don’t comply with their housing standards.
“Changes in production practices should be driven by the marketplace, not government fiats or even ballot initiatives,” Dierks told the House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, during its hearing on the growing problem of states regulating beyond their borders.
He pointed out that, while states have the prerogative – however ill-advised or uninformed – to ban certain agriculture production practices for their farmers, they shouldn’t be allowed to adopt laws or regulations that dictate the practices of farmers in the other 49 states.
That restraint of interstate commerce, Dierks told the panel, would appear to be a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which gives absolute power to Congress to regulate such trade.
The Sensenbrenner bill would prohibit state intrusions on the sovereignty of other states, limiting state taxation and regulation to persons and entities that have a “physical presence” in the state.