It took practically a decade, but Sen. Roger Marshall is finally getting noticed.
Kansas’ junior senator is a co-sponsor of the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act, which challenges the constitutionality of laws such as California’s Proposition 12, which only allows the sale of pork from farms that don’t use gestation crates and eggs from farms that use cage-free laying systems.
What is the EATS Act?
Essentially, this is a reintroduced version of the Protect Interstate Commerce Act, sometimes more commonly referred to as the King Amendment, named after former Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.
After the May U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld Proposition 12, Marshall and other Republicans introduced the bill in the U.S. Senate, while Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, led the charge for the EATS Act in the House.
Incidentally, those were the two names mentioned to me as potential leaders in a reincarnation of PICA when I interviewed King in 2022.
In recent weeks, the legislation has gathered a lot of attention. It has its supporters and its opponents. Some of its biggest supporters are the National Pork Producers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, National Egg Farmers and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
But it also has its opponents, most notably animal rights groups such as Mercy for Animals, Animal Wellness Action and Center for a Humane Economy, but also some agriculture groups who fear that if the EATS Act passes, it will give foreign companies such as China-based WH Group an advantage over U.S. producers.
Who is Roger Marshall?
Since I live in the state Marshall was elected to serve and the congressional district he had earlier been elected to serve, I am aware of who Marshall is.
But others outside of the state have probably not heard much about him until now.
Prior to the EATS Act, if you were to ask me what he’s done, my answer would be brag about being a doctor and parrot the rhetoric of our previous president. His e-newsletter, named “Doctor’s Note,” reflects that those seem to be his two biggest priorities.
But now that he is behind the EATS Act, he has a chance to actually prove he can be more than a GOP talking head and Kansas’ second banana to Sen. Jerry Moran.
After all, he first ran for the U.S. House on a platform of being a pro-agriculture, pro-farmer candidate. He knew that the incumbent First District Congressman Tim Huelskamp had been removed from the House Agriculture Committee, and involvement in that committee was imperative for the district.
He defeated Huelskamp in the 2016 primary, and voters in the heavily Republican district gave him the nod in the general election.
Four years later, Marshall ran for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Pat Roberts. He was one of only two Republican candidates with name recognition, so just like he got elected to the House by not being Huelskamp or a Democrat, he got elected to the Senate by not being Kris Kobach or a Democrat.
And while Marshall is essentially just carrying the flag previously carried by King, his leadership stance on the EATS Act shows he is backing up his talk on being a voice for the farmers, or at least some of them.
Will the EATS Act pass?
Marshall, in a recent interview with RFD TV acknowledged the bill will have a tough go, saying “we’re getting the heck beat out of us.”
“Look, these are radical animal rights activists that are leading this charge against us. We do not want California telling Kansas or Iowa farmers how to raise pigs. Next, it’s going to be cattle, then they’re going to tell us we can’t grow GMO corn, so we are drawing a line in the sand and saying ‘no thank you, California. This is Kansas. We’re going to do it the way Kansans have done this for centuries,” Marshall said.
That interview clip is available on YouTube.
But it isn’t just the aggressive campaigns of the animal rights group that are hurting the EATS Act. It’s also campaigning of sorts from the two political parties.
Rep. Ron Estes, R-Kansas, told me last year that PICA-style legislation was unlikely to go anywhere in the near future because of the partisanship involved. He seemed to point fingers at the Democrats, saying if their leaders didn’t support it, they wouldn’t make it a priority.
But some of the bill’s current backers aren’t doing themselves any favors in getting Democrat support.
In a press release sent from Marshall’s office, several backers of the bill, including Hinson, took pot shots at Democrats.
“Prop 12 allows liberal lawmakers and radical activists in California — who don’t know the first thing about farming or raising animals — to regulate how farmers do their job, devastating small family farms and undermining food security,” Hinson said.
But maybe the more puzzling comment came from Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Missouri.
“Feeding Americans should not be a political issue, and Democrat-run states have no business forcing more regulations on Missouri farmers simply due to their agricultural practices,” Schmitt said.
So if it shouldn’t be a political issue, stop making it one.
Perhaps it’s time guys like Marshall put a stop to the finger pointing and instead reach across the aisle to get something done for a change.
Then, maybe Marshall can prove he’s worthy of the office he holds.