Wednesday, July 18, 2012

He Must Have Failed Constitutional Law

Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States is furious over a last-minute amendment to the farm bill passed last week by the House Agriculture Committee. The amendment, sponsored by Iowa Republican Steve King, limits the effects of state animal welfare laws like California’s ban on selling eggs from chickens kept in battery cages.

In a long and vitriolic blog post Tuesday, Pacelle lashed out at both the amendment and its author: “(King’s) proposal, which tramples states’ rights and the 10th amendment, is designed to nullify all of the voter-approved ballot measures to protect farm animals, including Prop 2 in California, which was approved by 64 percent of voters in November 2008. … Americans need to rise up and make sure that not one comma in King’s amendment makes it into the final farm bill. It is utterly unworthy of a nation built upon republican principles of government.”

In fact, King's amendment only would prevent states that regulate their own agricultural products from imposing those regulations on products imported from other states, which, last week checked, is a restraint of trade and, thus, a violation of the Constitution's Commerce Clause. 

Pacelle is also upset that another poultry-related amendment—this one codifies an agreement on hen housing between HSUS and an egg industry trade association—was not included in the bill. NPPC has led the opposition to that measure, saying it would set a “dangerous precedent” for allowing federal bureaucrats to regulate on-farm production practices, including animal housing.

The committee farm bill faces an uncertain future on the House floor. If passed by the House, it would need to be reconciled with a substantially different Senate bill.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

GIPSA-Lite Axed -- Again!

GIPSA-Lite Axed—Again! 

Remember the GIPSA rule, the Obama administration’s ill-starred attempt to rewrite how livestock are bought and sold?

The draft regulation triggered such an avalanche of criticism the administration ended up adopting a much-scaled-back version dubbed GIPSA-Lite. Then Congress, acting on its annual Agriculture Department appropriations bill, blocked the department from spending money to implement much of what was left.

And now the House Agriculture Committee has voted to scrap implementation of the regulation completely. 

Working on the 2012 farm bill Wednesday night, the committee adopted an amendment offered by Reps. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) and Jim Costa (D-Calif.) that prevents GIPSA—the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration—from further work implementing the much-disliked regulation.

The committee also adopted an amendment requiring USDA to report how it will comply with a World Trade Organization ruling that country-of-origin labeling of meat products in this country discriminates against Canada and Mexico.

Whether either amendment survives the legislative process remains to be seen. With both Republicans and Democrats dissatisfied with parts of the House committee’s farm bill, it’s doubtful the measure will even reach the House floor before the November elections. If passed, it would need to be matched with a Senate bill that includes neither the GIPSA amendment nor the country-of-origin labeling language.

A Side Of Food Poisoning With That Free-Range Chicken?

Meat from free-range and organically raised animals may be trendy, but a recent journal article reminds us of one big downside of raising food animals outside of confinement: increased chances of food-borne illness.

The article was published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases and summarized in several other publications. It said growing demand for free-range or organically produced meat—especially pork and chicken—will probably increase the prevalence of the parasite toxoplasma gondii, or T. gondii, in humans.

Hardly a household name, T. gondii is nonetheless the second-leading cause of food-borne illness deaths in the United States. It is spread through the feces of infected animals. Most at risk are pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.
Pigs or chickens raised in “animal friendly” environments have greater access to grass, soil, feed and water that may be contaminated with T. gondii. The journal article concluded the parasite is anywhere from 17 percent to 100 percent more likely to be found in free-range chickens, compared with chickens raised indoors. Other research has found that organically raised pigs test positive for T. gondii more often than conventionally raised pigs.

HSUS Exposed!

Score another one for the helpful folks at the Center for Consumer Freedom.

The anti-activist nonprofit has followed up a blistering report on deceptive fundraising by the Humane Society of the United States with outreach to attorney general offices in 12 states that protect their citizens against misleading charitable solicitations. At least one AG—in Pennsylvania—has promised a response.

The Consumer Freedom report on HSUS highlighted the disconnect between the organization’s fundraising and the way it actually spends its money. While most HSUS television ads are dominated by images of shelter pets, only 1 percent of HSUS’s budget supports shelters, the report found. And, while HSUS touts a disclaimer saying it is independent of local shelters, the report found that disclaimer appears in less than 1 percent of HSUS commercials.

What HSUS really is about, of course, is attacking modern livestock production. In recent weeks it has both threatened bogus lawsuits against hog farmers for supposedly  violating government air emissions paperwork rules and threatened NPPC with a meritless Federal Trade Commission complaint claiming “deceptive advertising related to animal well-being.”