The farm bill, which finally has opened for conference committee debate, is a vitally important piece of legislation, covering a vast array of social safety net and agriculture-related measures that our U.S. Congress is working hard to reach consensus on.
But in the run-up to these important talks, a piece of legislation known as the King amendment, was attached to the House version of the bill. The amendment comes from Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. If it is passed, it would override states’ rights when it comes to agricultural products.
There’s a lot of talk of states’ rights in Congress, and this amendment flies in the face of it. The provision seeks to wipe out rules and laws passed by the states to safeguard public health, food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards.
Many state laws and regulations put in place to protect consumers, the environment and workers could be erased if the amendment passes. In Minnesota, laws affected could include those regulating swine and soybean operations, the importation and slaughter of cattle, manufacturing and the sale of cheese, and the sale of butter and genetically engineered crops.
States have a major role in agriculture policy, just as the feds do. They are partners, and Congress should not treat them as underlings. If there are rules or laws that regulate agriculture, those standards were duly considered by regulators, lawmakers or voters. What an insult to negate their work and to substitute the judgment of Washington for theirs, from thousands of miles away.
The National Conference of State Legislators opposes the amendment, stating that “the King Amendment not only violated the tenets of the Tenth Amendment, but would also have significant economic effects across the states.” If the farm bill passes with this amendment, it will destroy the fundamental principles of federalism established by our nation’s founding fathers.
We’ve had no hearings on the King amendment, and there’s no underlying bill that’s been examined or subject to much scrutiny. It was approved in a previous committee with about 10 minutes of debate. That’s not the way this Congress should do business with so much at stake for the states.
Minnesota Reps. Tim Walz and Collin Peterson and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who sit on the conference committee, have a chance to set things right. They must vote against the King amendment to protect the state’s right to enact laws and regulations in the best interest of all Minnesotans.
The writer is Minnesota director of the Humane Society of the United States.