As we await the eventual passage of a new farm bill, there are many questions about what it will include.
Among those questions is: Will it include the King amendment?
About the King amendment
The King amendment, formally known as the Protect Interstate Commerce Act (PICA) was introduced within the House version of the farm bill. The bill was designed to prevent states from regulating farm animal production in other states.
For Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who introduced the legislation, this would protect the state’s egg industry from laws in other states, such as California and Massachusetts, that have laws that set restrictions on how hens that lay eggs that are sold in in their state are raised, regardless of where they are raised.
King argues this is unconstitutional.
“States do not have the Constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce; the United States Congress does,” he said in a press release. “If California, or any other state, wants to regulate how products are made within their borders, they can do so. But Iowa’s producers should not be held hostage to the demands of California’s vegan lobby and California’s regulatory agencies.”
King attempted similar legislation during the drafting of the existing farm bill, but when that bill was signed into law in 2014, it did not include the King amendment.
Opposition from Senate
If 32 members of the United States Senate have their way, the next farm bill will also lack the King amendment.
Earlier this month, a group of 32 Senators, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, wrote to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, urging them to not support the King amendment, which was included in the version of the farm bill that passed the House.
“If enacted, this amendment would undermine numerous state laws and infringe on the fundamental rights of states to establish regulations within their own borders,” the senators wrote. “We want to thank you for not including this provision in the Senate bill, and strongly encourage you to reject this provision in any form in the final conference report.”
Signing senators and their party affiliations
It is worth noting that both of California’s senators, Feinstein and Kamala Harris, as well as both of Massachusetts’ senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, signed the letter.
But it is also evident that most signatures on the letter are those of Democrats, including agriculture committee members Patrick Leahy, Kirsten Gillibrand, Robert Casey Jr., and Tina Smith. However, the letter also includes the signature of Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine; Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.
Given that the moderate Collins often votes at odds with her party, and Sanders actually campaigned for the presidency during the last election cycle as a Democrat, the partisan nature of the signatures isn’t surprising. Nor is it surprising, considering the partisan nature of the farm bill deliberations.
But what if others see things the way that Feinstein and Co. do?
Thirty-two is hardly a majority since each of the 50 states elects two to the Senate, but it is enough that anyone who views the King amendment as a good thing should be concerned about its fate.