Provision Would Put Local Authority in Jeopardy

This June, a dangerous provision entitled Section 123 was inserted quietly into the 2007 Farm Bill (H.R. 2419), putting at risk critical state and local authority to ensure food safety, fight against animal cruelty, and protect the environment. The measure sought to prevent a state or locality from "prohibiting an article the Secretary of Agriculture has inspected and passed, or an article the Secretary has determined to be of non-regulated status."

"Section 123 provides the USDA with exclusive jurisdiction over public health issues and circumvents the ability of the states to adopt programs that support and promote farmers and rural economies," said Bill Wenzel, the national director of the National Family Farm Coalition’s Farmer-to-Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering.

Under a provision such as Section 123, states could be required to lift their bans on horse slaughter, the brutal production of foie gras, and the sale of bioengineered food. This was a major gambit by Big Ag—driving a knife into the remaining ability of states and counties to control rampaging agribusiness corporations. It was an attack, above all else, against democracy.

While the latest version of the bill, presented on July 6 in the House Agriculture Committee Chairman’s Markup Documents, did not contain Section 123, the Society for Animal Protective Legislation (SAPL) will continue to keep a close eye on the full bill’s progress. The provision’s removal is a tremendous step to protect state and local animal protection laws, but there is no guarantee that similar language will not be inserted into the final version or slipped through via other legislation.