States have right to set food laws

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: January 1 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:30 am in

By Sherrie Taha

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Apparently 4th District Iowa Congressman Steve King and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey either do not understand or do not care about the role of consumer demand in a free-market economy.

King included an amendment in the farm bill (currently in a House-Senate conference committee) that would not only negate states’ rights, causing disarray in the application of hundreds of state laws, but also would fly in the face of consumer demands.

Consumer demand is driving the market for high-quality foods. Consumers are voting with our food dollars and for legislation that reflects our expectations for safe, quality products combined with the humane treatment of animals. That is what Californians did in 2008 when they enacted Proposition 2, Standards for Confining Farm Animals. Then in 2009, the California Legislature reinforced consumer and egg industry expectations by passing legislation that requires out-of-state producers to meet those same requirements if they want to sell products in California.

In his Dec. 18 op-ed in the Des Moines Register, Northey defended the King amendment and failed to mention what Prop. 2 actually says. The law requires that calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens and pregnant pigs be con?ned only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely. It includes exceptions for transportation, rodeos, fairs, 4-H programs, lawful slaughter, research and veterinary purposes.

Animal welfare standards are a high priority for many consumers when making their food choices at restaurants and in the grocery store. Standards such as those in Prop. 2 are reasonable, common-sense minimum standards for animal welfare. I believe most producers care deeply about the welfare of their animals and provide safe, quality products to consumers. Producers whose operations take into consideration consumer expectations for the ethical treatment of animals are being paid a premium for their products. Increasingly profitable agricultural businesses are what the Iowa Department of Agriculture should be promoting.

It is reasonable to have federal minimum standards for safe food production and animal welfare. However, states must continue to have the right to codify standards that enhance or exceed those minimum federal standards according to the will of their people and industries in that state.

Producers must have ratification of the farm bill, not more delays resulting from attempts to contort the Constitution’s Commerce Clause as the King amendment does.

Sherrie Taha, D-Des Moines, is a candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and is a Polk County Soil & Water Conservation District commissioner. Comments: sherrietaha@gmail.com

 

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