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Thompson’s animal welfare, whole milk priorities in farm bill

Pork and milk producers endorse the provisions

House Agriculture Chairman Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa., has scheduled the farm bill markup for Thursday.
House Agriculture Chairman Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa., has scheduled the farm bill markup for Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Agriculture Committee’s draft farm bill released Friday includes two provisions Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson has long said were policy priorities: a California animal welfare rule and whole milk in school meals.

Thompson, R-Pa., followed through on his promise to address the California rule known as Proposition 12, requiring breeding sows to have room to turn around in their enclosures. The law defines that space as at least 24 square feet and calls anything less “cruel.” 

Retailers face a $1,000 fine or 180 days imprisonment per transaction if they sell pork products that don’t meet the requirement. 

The state also requires veal calves to have at least 43 square feet of space and egg-laying hens to be cage-free. The law makes it illegal for a California business to knowingly sell eggs, uncooked pork or veal from improperly housed animals, potentially affecting interstate commerce given the size of the California market. 

The Supreme Court’s decision in May 2023 to uphold the California law prompted Thompson to issue a statement that he was disappointed. “U.S. producers simply cannot operate in a system where one state can dictate production standards for the entire country,” he said.

The draft farm bill would give producers a federal right to raise and market livestock and prohibit states from directly or indirectly enforcing a production standard for livestock raised in a different state. California could enforce Proposition 12 for animals raised in the state only and other states couldn’t impose similar rules.

The House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to mark the bill up on May 23.

The National Pork Producers Council, which brought the unsuccessful case to the Supreme Court, said Friday it supported the provision in the farm bill. 

Thompson also included provisions from his House-passed whole milk bill that would allow schools in the National School Lunch Program to serve students whole or 2 percent milk, a change from current law that allows flavored or unflavored fat free, or unflavored low-fat or 1 percent milk. 

The farm bill has gained the support of the National Milk Producers Federation.

“Milk’s unique nutritional profile gives it an unparalleled role in providing kids the nutrients they need, and expanding its options in schools is a common-sense solution that will help ensure kids have access to the same healthful milk options they drink at home,” Alan Bjerga, NMPF’s  executive vice president of communications and industry relations, said in a statement.

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