eats act

Two Sides of the EATS Act

DanAgri-Business, Funding, Legislative

eats act

Things are heating up over the EATS Act. Supporters of the bill say the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act would prevent states from regulating farmers and ranchers nationwide.

“The EATS Act does two things. First, it prohibits the states, like California, from passing a law that would impact production practices in other states. And then in the event that a state does get away with passing a law like that, it gives a farmer in another state a cause of action,” explained Mary-Thomas Hart, Chief Council with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “So, if you’re a farmer in Iowa, who has to spend a lot of money to comply with new California regulations, you can get some relief from the state of California under the EATS Act.”

But opponents turned up the fire this week when a bipartisan group of more than 150 lawmakers sent a letter to House Agriculture Committee Chair G.T. Thompson (R-PA) and ranking member David Scott (D-GA). The letter states “The EATS Act goes beyond overturning Proposition 12 to threaten many other state laws. The bill is particularly draconian in that it aims to negate state and local laws even if there is no federal standard to take their place, creating an overnight regulatory vacuum.”

“It is really a huge threat to independent family farmers. It’s a giveaway to China and a giveaway to industrial agriculture from our view and the farmers and producers that we have at the Organization for Competitive Markets and Competitive Markets Action,” said Marty Irby, President of Competitive Market Action and Board Secretary at the Organization for Competitive Markets. “We have pork producers, beef producers, egg producers, dairy producers, and poultry producers. And all of these sectors in our memberships are against this measure because it is so broad and so overreaching that it would nullify countless state laws related to agriculture, especially in the sustainable agriculture space, and areas like organics where we have seen new markets emerge.”

Hart disagrees.

“I think that the EATS Act is that that necessary first step that we have to take because it’s important to remember that the issues created by the Prop 12 decision, by the NPPC decision, are much, much broader than agricultural production,” she said. “For us, it makes it makes ag a priority. It provides some initial relief for agricultural producers. And then I think it gives us the opportunity to further consider potential solutions for the broader economy because it’s not just agricultural production that is impacted by one state with a large economy being able to dictate national policy. That impact really is economy-wide.”

The opposition letter also states the act could “harm America’s small farmers, threaten numerous state laws, and infringe on the fundamental rights of states to establish laws and regulations within their own borders.”

Hart challenges that it’s California’s Prop 12 that would hurt small farmers while having little effect on large companies that can afford to make the changes required by the law.

Opponents to the EATS Act also claim it would benefit Chinese interests. Hart says that’s not so.

“I don’t see it. I think that the teams that crafted the EATS Act, the staff that worked to draft that bill had that in mind from the get-go and the language of the bill states very clearly. This is only meant to provide a benefit to domestic agricultural producers. So, it doesn’t in any way create a cause of action for the Chinese government to sue the state of California,” she said. “This is purpose-built to create a solution for American agricultural producers and provide a cause of action for American agricultural producers.”

Irby stands by the claim.

“Well, that was very clear. China Weekly actually published an article talking about how much they supported the Henson-Marshall EATS Act and how much it helps Chinese pork producers. Most people don’t realize that the Chinese own one hundred percent of Smithfield. Smithfield is obviously the largest pork producer in the world, and they own roughly one out of every five or one out of every six pigs in the United States of America. So, we’re producing a lot of the pork to go to China. And we’re seeing a lot of these 26-story hog hotels as I call them, pop up across the landscape in China. And, they are terrible not only for animals and the environment but also for public health and safety as well. So, we don’t want to see those types of operations pop up around in the United States, because the laws that would be nullified by the EATS Act in many instances are laws that would prevent certain types of structures, like those operations that are in China, the 26-story hog hotels often, being built in states in the United States. And, we believe that the Chinese would easily be able to put those across the American landscape if EATS were enacted.” Variations of the EATS Act have been introduced in past years but have not been passed into law.

Listen to Sabrina Halvorson’s program here.

Two Sides of the EATS Act

Sabrina Halvorson
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.

Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet News Hour and The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.