Amendment Could Threaten Food Safety, Preempt State Authority

In an opinion piece published by the Baltimore Sun (limited free views available), Senator Jennie Forehand and Delegate Tom Hucker, Co-Chairs of the Maryland General Assembly Joint Committee on Federal Relations, expressed their concerns with an amendment adopted to the Farm Bill by the House of Representatives that would preempt states from enacting their own laws with stricter requirements to protect public health, food safety, animal welfare, and the environment.  From the opinion piece:

The King Amendment prohibits states from imposing conditions on the production of any agricultural product sold in the state if the production occurs in another state, and if the condition is in addition to federal standards or standards of the state in which production occurs. Take a minute to process the enormity of that proposal. This would force states to allow commerce in products they have banned — no matter how dangerous, unethical or environmentally destructive. It would prohibit states from setting standards for products sold within their boundaries. Questionable agricultural products allowed in Mississippi or Texas would have to be sold to Marylanders and Virginians, even over the objections of their own elected lawmakers. It is the lowest-common-denominator approach to policymaking, and puts all states at the mercy of one or a handful of states. This is a radical assault on the states.

While the provision ostensibly seeks to target state animal welfare laws, it is so broad and vague that it could be interpreted to nullify an entire spectrum of state laws dealing with food safety, labeling, labor, and environmental protection. It could trigger expensive court cases about any state law related to agricultural products, from the sale of raw milk, to the labeling of farm-raised fish or artificial sweeteners, to restrictions on firewood transported into a state in order to protect against invasive pests and damage to local forests.

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