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By Staff | Dec 13, 2013

Rep. Steve King’s “Protect Interstate Commerce Act” makes so much sense that it is no wonder California is confused over it.

I think that King’s proposed addition of this provision to the farm bill is a make or break issue.

What this is about is free trade between states. If Iowa passed a law that said that only wine from grapes that had endured frozen winters could be sold in this state, California would be very displeased with what would be a blatant protectionist act.

Iowa should not write laws or regulations that block producers in other states from having access to consumers here. They can’t demand that all cows be painted purple and then that only beef from purple cows can be sold in the state.

Nebraska would protest.

California passed state rules mandating the minimum size of cages for laying hens. They can do that if they wish when regulating their own producers however they want to.

No one is denying them that right.

The crux of the issue and the source of the contention is that while they can regulate their own producers out of business if they want, they cannot block access to their market for Iowa eggs.

Free trade between states is protected in the Commerce Clause and should not be infringed upon by state regulations that effectively extend to producers in other states.

A state should not be able to impose restrictive or onerous regulation designed to limit market access to commerce from other states.

That is effectively what California is doing to Iowa producers. King added, “I don’t think it’s arguable that California should be able to regulate all the other states. Their next argument that they think has substance is they want to trade protectionism because they have a law in California, actually the referendum that puts their producers in a position where they can’t compete with the rest of the country.

“So California has passed a bad law and they want to impose that bad law on the rest of the country to protect their producers. That argument has substance, it just happens to be an unconstitutional law.”

The King amendment was included in the House farm bill that went to the conference committee with the Senate of which the Congressman is a member. It is being opposed by liberals who carry water for animal rights groups who see state regulation and the infringement on trade across state lines as a means to their end of damaging commercial animal agriculture.

The HSUS sees the King provision in the proposed farm bill as a major threat to their strategy of creating a state-by-state patchwork of referendums, rules and regulations that would restrict commercial trade of ag products that do not conform to HSUS sanctioned rules.

This would include both animal and plant farm products, as the strategy used to restrict markets to Iowa egg producers in California can be imposed on GMO grain or soy products too.

That is what is behind the attempts to impose GMO labeling rules. These activist groups see state imposition of restrictive regulation and its impact on trade as a lever with which they can move their issues forward and they are loath to losing it.

They are therefore calling forth all the anti-free trade forces that they can to bear down on defeating the King Amendment.

Agriculture needs to wake up to the seriousness of this issue and fight to defend its rights to access markets in all states.

This does not infringe on the rights of states to regulate their own producers any way they wish to, but this is the United States of America and only the Federal government has the power to regulate interstate commerce.

Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey, who is a strong proponent of the King provision, said “California should not be allowed to dictate production methods to the rest of the country.

“This has the making of an internal U.S. trade war. If it starts with eggs, you can be sure it won’t end with eggs.”

I read headlines in two farm papers that wrote “Farm bill takes aim at state animal welfare laws,” referring to the King provision.

That is not accurate. That is not what this about at all.

This is about protecting the right of ag producers to freely market products that meet the standards in the states where they are produced and Federal standards across state lines as intended by the Commerce Clause.

This is agricultural reciprocity. An egg marketable in Iowa is, by Federal law, marketable in California. This may well prompt a needed review of other existing state regulations to determine where they have overstepped their authority to regulate interstate commerce.

I will again repeat that states can regulate their own producers to hell if they want, however they should not be able to impose that judgment on producers in other states, only the Federal government can do that.

To me it is pretty clear what is right and what is wrong and Congressman King is right.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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