Not very much good for animals in 2013 Farm Bill maneuvering

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  July-August 2013:

WASHINGTON D.C.––A version of the 2013 Farm Bill passed on July 11,  2013 by the U.S. House of Representatives eliminated $80 billion in funding for the federal food stamp program,  but included an amendment by Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) which would overturn more than 150 state laws governing aspects of food safety,  occupational health, and animal welfare.

Nothing similar to the King amendment was included in the Farm Bill draft approved by the U.S. Senate on June 11, 2013.  But the King amendment,  or language based on it,  could become a bargaining chip in efforts to reinstate the food stamp program allocation,  and/or to reconcile other conflicting aspects of the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill.

King introduced the “Protect Interstate Commerce Act,”  as he called his Farm Bill amendment,  to block “states from requiring ‘free range’ eggs or ‘free range’ pork,”  he said.  But King acknowledged that the amendment also “covers all agriculture products listed in section 206 of the Agriculture Marketing Act of 1946,”  making it in effect a wholesale repeal of 67 years’ worth of state legislation.

In passing the House edition of the 2013 Farm Bill,  “Republican leaders [also] blocked consideration of a series of animal welfare amendments relating to banning barren battery cages,  cracking down on horse slaughter,  and upgrading the federal law against horse soring,”  observed Humane Society of the U.S. president Wayne Pacelle. Pacelle acknowledged that the House version of the Farm Bill “does include an upgrade of the federal animal fighting law,  making it a crime to attend or bring a minor to a dogfight or a cockfight.”  Pacelle called this “a top HSUS priority,”  but added that HSUS would oppose the House-approved Farm Bill “because of the King amendment.”

Pacelle pledged to “seek separate pathways” for other items HSUS had hoped to have included in the 2013 Farm Bill,  including a national prohibiting of horse slaughter for human consumption and strengthened legislation against soring the feet and legs of show horses to force them into an unnaturally high-stepping gait.

Pacelle also reaffirmed that HSUS will “look for any available vehicle” to advance the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013,  written to implement a 2011 agreement between the Humane Society of the U.S. and United Egg Producers about laying hen cage sizes.  First introduced in 2012,  and reintroduced earlier this year,  the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments have yet to be voted upon in either the 112th or the 113th Congress. Pacelle hoped as recently as June 20,  2013 that the House version of the Farm Bill would include an amendment by Representatives Jeff Denham (R-California) and Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon) which would have inserted the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013 into the Farm Bill in place of the King amendment.  That hope died when the full House defeated a draft of the Farm Bill advanced by the Republican House leadership,  which would have included the food stamp program reauthorization.

A three-day blizzard of alerts from HSUS and Farm Sanctuary urging support of the Denham/Schrader amendment caused Humane Farming Association founder Brad Miller to cry foul.  Miller opposes the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments because,  while the amendments would phase in the replacement of battery cages for laying hens with larger colony caging,  the amendments would also prevent states from enforcing legislation requiring that laying hens not be kept in cages at all.

Miller objected that some HSUS and Farm Sanctuary alerts asking recipients to oppose the King amendment failed to mention that the Denham/Schrader bill would replace it with the Egg Products Inspection Act amendments.  The original HSUS and Farm Sanctuary alerts did include that information,  but as the last-minute Congressional maneuvering became more intense,  much shorter subsequent alerts tended to omit details.

The unfavorable climate for advancing pro-animal legislation through the current House was underscored,  noted meat industry lobbyist Steve Kopperud in his June 13,  2013 Washington Report for the Ohio Agribusiness Association,   when the pro-agribusiness Farm Animal Welfare Coalition “convinced the House Administration Committee to instruct Compass Group/Restaurant Associates,  which holds the contract to run the food service in all House office building cafeterias,  cafes and carry-outs,  to immediately end its promotion of Meatless Mondays and remove all signage and promotion from the eateries.”

The Farm Animal Welfare Coalition,  explained Kopperud,  includes “most of the nation’s largest farm,  ranch,  dairy, biotechnology and feed groups,  and was created by the American Feed Industry Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation.”

Merritt Clifton

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