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Thursday, December 19, 2013

The King Grinch Who Stole State Ag Laws

You don’t need the glow of Rudolph’s red nose to see that only a Grinch would go after rules that guarantee families get healthy Christmas trees. But Capitol Hill’s reigning Grinch, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, is determined to spoil Christmas for both young and old. He’s the author of a controversial and overreaching amendment to the pending Farm Bill—it amounts to a federal takeover that would block states from setting standards for agriculture products.

King says he’s targeting a California law requiring more humane treatment of egg-laying hens. But his amendment is so broad it impacts all the Whos in Whoville, not just those in the Golden State. It applies to the manufacturing of any agricultural product—even Christmas trees and reindeer.

ReindeerIn Alabama, it’s illegal to import Christmas trees, or ornamental pine foliage, from any state that has pine shoot beetles, unless the trees and foliage have been quarantined. Oregon prohibits selling a Christmas tree that’s infected with disease. Georgia sets standards for Christmas trees sold at farmers markets. Washington requires any diseased Christmas tree to be condemned so that consumers won’t have to worry about the quality of the tree in their living room.

Surely these states should have the right to set standards to protect consumers who want good, healthy Christmas trees to mark the holiday season. Who wants a sick Christmas tree to ruin that special morning as families gather round to celebrate and exchange gifts?

And what about Rudolph and his friends? Connecticut requires that any reindeer imported into the state be free from tuberculosis, brucellosis, and chronic wasting disease. The King amendment could nullify Connecticut’s law that protects reindeer farmers from receiving infected animals from other states. When Santa lands his sleigh on your rooftop, you want him spreading good cheer, not bovine tuberculosis.

Congress will come back in January and the Farm Bill will be one of the first items on the legislative agenda. A conference committee will determine whether the King amendment makes it into the final package. If ever there was a need for the Whos in Whoville to stand strong in a good cause, it’s now. Every good Who needs to stand up and be counted if this radical and sweeping attack on state sovereignty is to be defeated, and the Grinch sent home to Mount Crumpit.    

With the defeat of the King amendment, families can continue to hang ornaments and lights on healthy Christmas trees, and Santa can continue to have healthy reindeer to fly him around the globe—delivering gifts to good little boys and girls and lumps of coal to those who would strike down even the most basic standards of care for animal welfare, food safety, and the environment.

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