October 26, 2023

Interpretive Summary: EATS Act opposition letter sent to Agriculture Committee

EATS Act opposition letter sent to Agriculture Committee

By: Sydney Sheffield 

A group of House Republicans recently sent a letter to Congress, calling for the opposition of the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression Act (EATS Act). The bill would prohibit state laws that impose additional requirements on agriculture producers in other states. 

The EATS Act comes on the heels of California’s Proposition 12, which requires veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens to be housed in systems that comply with specific standards for freedom of movement, cage-free design, and specified minimum floor space. The Republican senators feel that the EATS Act violates the states’ rights principle. The Supreme Court has upheld Proposition 12, which has led industry to seek relief through legislation.

According to the letters, the representatives believe that the EATS Act would potentially nullify other state laws regulating everything from cage-free eggs to cigarette flammability standards and even restrictions on selling expired food. They also note that Proposition 12 withstood multiple judicial challenges and was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court. They add that while the high court acknowledged the Constitution’s Commerce Clause gives Congress authority to regulate interstate commerce, the majority opinion did not recommend they take action.

“While some of us may disagree with the policies that some states enact, it is not our job as federal legislators to dismantle them because we disagree with them,” the Republican letter says. “Our multi-tiered system of government allows for decision-making at the local and state level even when it sometimes creates tensions with policymakers working at the federal levels.”

The letter states the California (Proposition 12) and Massachusetts (Question 3) laws give producers more value-added market opportunities. According to their data, California and Massachusetts only consume 6% of American-produced pork. They say pork producers can easily serve this demand. The lawmakers also note that the pork industry is already moving away from the small gestation crates Proposition 12 was enacted to counter. 

“The EATS Act proposes to undo legitimate statewide elections on animal-housing standards, and the influence of the Chinese government is hard to miss given the profound level of control of pig production in the United States,” the letter says. “The biggest U.S.-based pork company is wholly owned by the Chinese, controlling 26% of the U.S. pork market, and produces one in six breeding sows in the United States. The 2013 acquisition was financed solely by the Bank of China, which is under the control of the CCP. There is no bigger example of Chinese infiltration of American agriculture than in the pork industry. This is a fact pattern that causes us deep concern.”

Animal welfare groups are also opposed to the EATS Act, with Dena Jones, director of the farmed animal program at the Animal Welfare Institute, stating it is “one of the greatest legislative threats against farmed animal welfare in the United States.” However, several agriculture groups, such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Pork Producers Council, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association are supporters of the bill. 

Read the letter here