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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Good and the Bad in the Farm Bill

The House Agriculture Committee, late last night, approved its version of the Farm Bill, and with it included an important provision to close a loophole in the federal animal fighting statute and help crack down on people who attend and bring children to dogfights and cockfights. The animal fighting amendment, offered by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., passed the committee by a bipartisan vote of 28 to 17. It’s based on H.R. 366, sponsored by Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa., McGovern, John Campbell, R-Calif., and Jim Moran, D-Va.

The opponents of the provision, led by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., argued that animal fighting laws should be handled by the states, and that the penalties were too severe, potentially breaking families apart when the parents go to prison just for bringing their child to a dogfight. Rep. McGovern and Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., who is one of only two veterinarians in Congress, forcefully made the argument that the federal government has an important role to play because a large share of these fights attract participants from multiple states who finance the operations and allow them to thrive, and that if parents are bringing their children to animal fights it may not be a suitable environment to raise a child.

DogfightingThe amendment passed, with 10 Republicans and 18 Democrats supporting this anti-crime and anti-cruelty legislation. We are grateful to all the members of the committee who voted in favor of the animal fighting amendment, and you can see their names below. This vote came just a day after the Senate Agriculture Committee marked up its version of the Farm Bill, which also includes the animal fighting spectator provision, thanks to the leadership of Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Ranking Member Thad Cochran, R-Miss, and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.  It’s based on S. 666, sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and David Vitter, R-La. With the animal fighting provision in both the House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill passed by both committees, there is a good chance it will be enacted into law, and we will be working hard to make sure that happens.

Ironically, while the opponents of the animal fighting provision argued that the federal government should leave these matters up to the states, they had just minutes earlier passed a separate amendment that would substitute the judgment of the federal government for the judgment of state legislators, voters, and regulators across the country. The committee approved, by voice vote, an amendment by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that seeks to nullify hundreds of state laws on agriculture products, including animal welfare, food safety, labor, and environmental standards. A number of lawmakers spoke passionately and fought hard against this federal power grab and trampling on the historic power of the states—including Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Jim Costa, D-Calif., John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Schrader—and cautioned the committee that this provision is so overbroad and far-reaching there’s no telling how many state and local laws could be impacted.

The states have a major role in agriculture policy, just as the feds do. They are partners, and Congress should not treat them as underlings. If there are rules or laws that regulate agriculture, those standards were duly considered by regulators, lawmakers or voters. What an insult to negate their work and to substitute the judgment of Washington for theirs, from thousands of miles away. It’s clear that some lawmakers will trot out arguments about states’ rights when it’s convenient, such as when they want to oppose a tough anti-dogfighting law, but will trample all over states’ rights when they don’t like what state legislators or voters are doing. We’ll be working to address this federal takeover as the Farm Bill progresses.

Voting YES to crack down on animal fighting spectators:

Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.
Chris Collins, R-N.Y.
Jim Costa, D-Calif.
Joe Courtney, D-Conn.
Rodney Davis, R-Ill.
Suzan DelBene, D-Wash.
Jeff Denham, R-Calif.
Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio
Pete Gallego, D-Tex.
John Garamendi, D-Calif.
Chris Gibson, R-N.Y.
Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.
Richard Hudson, R-N.C.
Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H.
Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y.
Jim McGovern, D-Mass.
Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.
Rick Nolan, D-Minn.
Martha Roby, R-Ala.
Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.
Austin Scott, R-Ga.
David Scott, D-Ga.
Glenn Thompson, R-Pa.
Scott Tipton, R-Colo.
Juan Vargas, D-Calif.
Filemon Vela, D-Tex.
Ted Yoho, R-Fla.
Tim Walz, D-Minn.

Voting NO on the animal fighting amendment:

Dan Benishek, R-Mich.
Mike Conaway, R-Tex.
Rick Crawford, R-Ark.
Scott DesJarlais, R-Ga.
Bill Enyart, D-Ill.
Stephen Fincher, R-Tenn.
Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio
Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.
Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.
Steve King, R-Iowa
Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.
Frank Lucas, R-Okla.
Randy Neugebauer, R-Tex.
Kristi Noem, R-S.D.
Colin Peterson, D-Minn.
Reid Ribble, R-Wisc.
Mike Rogers, R-Ala.

Abstaining on animal fighting vote:

Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Calif.

 

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