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Thompson says House farm bill to address animal welfare law

Rep. Hinson and Sen. Marshall have bills that would nullify California's law

House Agriculture Chairman Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa.,  said the Supreme Court decision on California's animal welfare law raises the prospect of trade conflict between states.
House Agriculture Chairman Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa., said the Supreme Court decision on California's animal welfare law raises the prospect of trade conflict between states. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The chairman of the House Agriculture Committee said Wednesday he will use the upcoming farm bill to address a Supreme Court ruling upholding a California animal welfare rule that pork producers warn will generate a patchwork of laws that interfere with interstate commerce.

Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., told an audience in Redwood County, Minn., the Supreme Court had noted in its May 11 decision that Congress has the power to address issues raised by California’s Proposition 12 but had chosen not to do so in the past.

“They let it stand because they are tired of doing Congress’ work. They said this needs to be fixed,” Thompson said, telling a farm bill listening session that his committee will address Proposition 12. 

The California law requires that pork products come from a pig born to a sow with room to turn around in her enclosure. The law defines that as a 24-square-foot space and calls anything less as keeping the animal in a “cruel manner.”

Retailers face a $1,000 fine or 180 days imprisonment per transaction if they sell pork products that don’t meet the requirement. The proposition, which also set minimum space requirements for calves raised for veal and egg-laying hens, passed in 2018 with 7.5 million votes, or 62.7 percent of ballots cast.

California has extended the compliance date from July 1 to Dec. 31 for whole pork products already in the supply chain.

Thompson said the Supreme Court decision raises the possibility of trade wars among states and regulatory burdens for agriculture. 

The staff of the House and Senate Agriculture committees are working on their respective bills to replace the current farm law that expires Sept. 30.

Thompson didn’t say if the committee will write its own legislation or use pending legislation to address the California rule.

Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, and Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., have filed bills that would nullify Proposition 12 and bar states and local governments from adopting or putting in force similar laws or regulations in the future. Neither bill has Democratic lawmakers listed as co-sponsors.

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