Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, will likely be most remembered as a controversial Congressman whose comments reflected those of a racist.
Think what you wish about that, but there is no denying that King can also be remembered for one more thing: His tenacity in trying to prevent other states from dictating how eggs are produced in Iowa.
On multiple occasions, King proposed legislation that sought to prevent states from engaging in the regulation of agricultural products that are lawfully produced or manufactured in other states. In other words, states like California, through its Proposition 2 and, later, Proposition 12 referendums, called for eggs to be sold in their state to follow certain standards that included minimum space requirements for hens.
Since Iowa is the largest egg producing state in the U.S., these laws passed outside of Iowa’s borders were sure to affect production in the Hawkeye State.
While the 2014 and 2018 farm bills were being drafted, King authored amendments, that would informally be known as the “King Amendments,” were proposed to protect producers in Iowa and other states.
Both farm bills were passed and signed into law without the King Amendments, but he didn’t give up. In 2019, he introduced the Protect Interstate Commerce Act (PICA), a piece of standalone legislation that was very similar to his proposed farm bill amendments.
The 2019 PICA was co-sponsored by Reps. David Rouzer, R-North Carolina; Ron Estes, R-Kansas, Roger Marshall, R-Kansas; Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota.
But soon after the bill’s proposal, King found himself in hot water over comments many perceived to be racist. King was stripped of all committee assignments, including the agriculture committee. In addition to that, Peterson, the current agriculture committee chairman, removed his name as a co-sponsor.
The bill stalled and was not heard from again.
If another version of PICA will surface, it won’t have King’s name on it. King was recently defeated in a primary election as he sought his tenth term in the U.S. House. The seat will ultimately go to either Republican Randy Feenstra or Democrat J.D. Scholten, who narrowly lost to King in 2018.
Co-sponsor Marshall will for sure not be returning to the House, either, as he seeks to fill the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Pat Roberts. Marshall just topped a crowded primary field, which included another politician viewed by many as a racist, Kris Kobach.
So time will tell if anyone else will carry the PICA flag, or whether it will end with King’s tenure.
While well-meaning, PICA could seem far-fetched at this point. Numerous legal challenges to Proposition 12 and similar laws in other states that call for the exclusive production and sale of cage-free eggs have ultimately been denied. There’s also the fact that every major grocery retailer in the state has pledged to eventually sell only cage-free eggs by certain dates.
However, that transition remains in limbo as United Egg Producers CEO Chad Gregory recently said it would be financially and logistically impossible for all of those pledges to be met on time.
Maybe one more try at PICA might be just what the industry needs, and if a less polarizing figure proposes it, it might have better odds of passing.