The following letter to the editor appeared in the September 21, 2023 edition of the Southeast Iowa Union.
by Diane Rosenberg | Executive Director
Imagine you’re shopping at the supermarket, carefully selecting foods to nourish yourself and your family, unaware their ingredients were produced under the nation’s weakest agricultural and food safety laws.
That would be the state of affairs if Congress passes the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act.
The EATS Act would prevent states from passing or enforcing laws on the “preharvest” production of agricultural products imported across state lines. No state’s laws could be more stringent than the weakest state laws in the country.
The EATS Act would nullify over 1100 state laws governing agriculture and food safety that protect consumers and farmers alike, reports a Harvard University Law School analysis. It’s industry’s response to California Proposition 12, modeled after the King Amendment that failed twice during the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bill negotiations.
Potentially negated laws include Iowa’s sanitation requirements protecting livestock farmers from the highly pathogenic avian flu and African Swine Fever and laws protecting consumers, such as Arizona’s requirement that milk or cream be free from insects, manure, or other filth and Florida’s law prohibiting the sale of citrus fruit containing arsenic.
Further, the EATS Act could prevent future laws necessary for farmer and consumer safety if no federal, state, or local agricultural regulations already exist.
The EATS Act would affect a wide scope of laws ranging from those governing preharvest production of agricultural, horticultural, viticultural, meat, dairy, and egg products to food quality and safety regulations, puppy mills, invasive pest protection, food procurement programs, narcotics laws and food labeling standards.
An extensive provision allows for lawsuits against state and local governments, including elected officials, for violating the EATS Act.
The vague wording and fuzzy definitions may induce extensive constitutional litigation, disrupting markets and threatening farmer livelihoods, consumer prices, animal welfare, and food safety. Farmers who adapted to Prop 12 will lose the economic value of their investments.
The EATS Act would also gut states’ rights, conflicting with the Tenth Amendment, which bars Congress from prohibiting states from enacting public health and welfare laws where no federal law exists.
There is broad, bipartisan opposition to the EATS Act – 30 US Senators, 172 US Representatives, 170 organizations, and hundreds of individual farmers, veterinary professionals, faith leaders, legal experts, and editorial boards recognize its dangers and oppose the bill.
The EATS Act was introduced by Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson and Kansas Sen. Roger Marshall. All of Iowa’s Representatives and Senators are cosponsors.
Their support is unsurprising, given the influence of Iowa’s powerful pork industry. Our legislators are rejecting their responsibility to protect constituents’ health, safety, livelihoods, and well-being by backing a bill benefiting the financial interests of a few multinational corporations.
You have the power to stop this ominous bill and stand up for your right to healthy and clean food. Learn more from Defeat EATS, a coalition of over 80 organizations, including JFAN. Register your opposition here. Share the impacts of this harmful bill with your family and friends and contact your legislators. The EATS Act must be stopped.