Charlotte Observer | NC Farmer: If you eat local – or even just eat – this year’s Farm Bill is in trouble

Reposted from:

August 29, 2023

If your main exposure to agriculture is eating, then you are probably oblivious to the battle currently being fought in our nations’ capital.

It’s not pretty and is unlikely to be resolved by Sept. 30 when our current 2018 Farm Bill expires. For those of you more than a few years out of high school civics, the Farm Bill is a huge multi-year omnibus that covers everything from nutrition to crop insurance to conservation and all things agriculture related in between.

Here on our family farm in North Carolina, we’ve been paying particularly close attention to the 2023 Farm Bill and the discussions surrounding it.

There are a few bills currently introduced as part of the 2023 Farm Bill that will impact us directly but for the most part the Farm Bill is there to help the larger industrial farm businesses, and one of the EATS Acts is a prime example of a bill pandering to Big Ag. The Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression Act — (not to be confused with the Enhance Access To SNAP Act which is focused on removing barriers faced by low-income college students when applying for SNAP benefits) — seeks to eliminate states’ rights to regulate agricultural products beyond what is required by federal law.

As an independent family livestock farm in the northeast corner of Durham County with two college age kids we’ve been calling them the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ EATS Acts.

This farming household doesn’t often weigh into politics, but the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression Act is such an egregious overreach of power we wanted to. In very simple terms, the ‘bad’ EATS Act will allow producers of agricultural products to ignore other state’s laws.

Big Ag and its supporters claim the bill would help farmers, reducing regulatory burdens by completely eliminating states’ ability to regulate agricultural products beyond what is required by federal law. This would be an incredible overreach of power, steamrolling the rights of North Carolinians to pass laws governing agriculture in our own state.

The EATS Act isn’t going to help farmers like us who feed our communities, pay local taxes, and spend our hard-earned dollars right here in the Piedmont of our beautiful (albeit currently hot and sticky) state.

According to a recent analysis by Harvard Law School, this intentionally vague bill could potentially affect over a thousand state laws nationwide, including 19 in our home state. Every corner of agriculture has the potential to be affected. Regulations regarding invasive pests and plant diseases, prioritizing food purchased from local N.C. farms, milk quality standards and horse slaughter laws, could all be affected by the “bad” EATS Act. It is nothing but a race to the bottom.

It is incredibly disappointing that Sens. Thom Tillis and Ted Budd are so willing to throw under the bus the rights of North Carolinians to pass laws governing agriculture in our own state. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said “a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

What’s at risk here is the right of local communities to live and eat as they see fit without the influence of corporations they’ve never heard of dictating the terms of how the food they put on their table gets there. The states will still be the laboratories of democracy if we can keep it that way.

We hope you’ll join us in urging Congress to reject the dangerous Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression Act in the Farm Bill and support local farmers like us everywhere. We’ve lost too many small farms.