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Interpretive Summary: The EATS Act is introduced

By: Sydney Sheffield 

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision on California Proposition 12 (Prop 12), The Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act was introduced to prevent states like California from regulating farmers and ranchers nationwide. The EATS Act was introduced by Senators Roger Marshall (R-KS), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Eric Schmitt (R-MO), Ted Budd (R-NC), and Bill Hagerty (R-TN). 

In May 2023, the United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) that challenged California’s Prop 12. Prop 12 passed in 2018 and requires pork meat sold in the state to come from pigs born to a sow housed in at least a 24-square-foot-pen. Prop 12 would force producers from other states to abide by California law. Californians are the largest pork market in the country, consuming approximately 15% of the pork produced in the country, producing only 1% of it.

“California’s Proposition 12 is going to hurt the economy of Iowa, which is number one in pork production. Because we farm differently than the eggheads of California think we ought to run our animal agriculture, we can’t sell our product there. We have to solve this problem by passing legislation. Our bill makes sure Iowa pork can be sold everywhere in the nation, including in California, and consumers can afford bacon for breakfast,” said Senator Grassley.

Recently, 11 Republican governors sent a letter to House and Senate leaders, sharing their displeasure with the Supreme Court’s decision and urging the reintroduction of the EATS Act. “We support the right of individuals to choose how and what animal products they consume, and of each State to lawfully regulate livestock production within their respective borders,” the letter says. “But the policy and moral preferences of voters in one State should not—and cannot—dictate how farmers raise their crops and livestock across the country. It is imperative that Congress act.”

Many in the agricultural industry are pleased with the reintroduction of the EATS Act. Mary-Thomas Hart, Chief Counsel of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) said, “The fractured opinion issued by the Supreme Court in NPPC v. Ross creates a slippery slope that puts our successful interstate economy at risk, by putting complete control in the hands of our largest states. NCBA supports the EATS Act as a tool to give impacted farmers and ranchers relief from state standards that create new costs and regulatory burden.” 

On the other side, those that were satisfied with the Supreme Court’s decision do not want to see the EATS Act prevail. Kitty Block, president, and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said “The EATS Act presents a shocking threat to animals, consumers, workers, the environment and states’ rights. Designed to wipe out state laws that ban the cruel immobilizing confinement of egg-laying hens, mother pigs, and baby veal calves, it defies the common values consumers expect the food industry to uphold.” 

The EATS Act was previously introduced during the 2021-2022 Congress but did not have any traction. Following the Supreme Court’s Prop 12 decision, those in support of American agriculture are hoping for a different outcome. 

Read the EATS Act here