The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, HR 2, was defeated on May 18 in the US House of Representatives by a vote of 198-213.
This massive farm bill came to the floor loaded with provisions designed to reverse gains in animal welfare and weaken endangered species protections. Language offered by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) would undermine states’ authority to set standards for animal welfare within their own borders, likely invalidating restrictions many states have placed on gestation crates for pigs, horse slaughter, and the sale of pets from puppy mills. It would also jeopardize food safety standards, state sovereignty, worker protections, environmental quality, and consumer safeguards.
In addition, HR 2 would hobble the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by allowing federal agencies to essentially ignore the impact some of their activities have on imperiled species. For example, the bill exempts the Environmental Protection Agency from having to evaluate whether pesticide use affects threatened or endangered species. An approved amendment would have done more damage by allowing federal sanction of projects regardless of their impact on listed species or critical habitat so long as there are existing (or merely proposed) measures to improve that species’ habitat elsewhere.
A number of other proposed amendments that would have had serious consequences for endangered species, farm animals, and animals used for research were not allowed to be considered.
Unfortunately, provisions banning the dog and cat meat trade and clarifying the application of federal animal fighting law in the US territories were also victims of this defeat, but the bill as a whole did more harm than good for animal welfare and endangered species. As of this writing, the House may engage in a maneuver allowing it to vote again on this same bill. Regardless, the House will have to pass a farm bill sooner or later and AWI will continue to work to keep that bill free of dangerous provisions.