City & State Florida | The EATS Act and the Citrus Squeeze

Reposted from:

October 4, 2023

Years ago, I read the book Freakanomics which has an underlying theme that everything operates based on economic incentives and disincentives. While I’m not sure it can apply to everything, I’ve certainly been concerned about the price of my daily morning glass of my superfood: grapefruit juice. I’ve had high cholesterol for years and combatted it via my diet.

While I know the price of grapefruit and orange juice is higher due to the proliferation of citrus disease and uncontrollable hurricanes, I worry about future compounding events. I didn’t expect the price of my grapefruit juice to continue to go up because of overreaching federal legislation.

Yet, here’s what I’ve learned. There is a bill, called The EATS Act – short for the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression, which is a “marker bill” – it’s a bill that is introduced to Congress with the intention of part, or all of the bill, being introduced into a large piece of legislation – in this case likely the all-important Farm Bill.

Essentially, EATS would wipe away existing state laws, undermining the ability of states to determine their own standards for out-of-state agricultural products. In Florida, a state celebrated for its citrus industry, the potential impact of the EATS Act is profound. Laws that safeguard against the importation of citrus diseases and pests, like the ban on importing out-of-state citrus trees and fruits, could be wiped away. This could leave Florida’s iconic citrus industry vulnerable to additional threats it has long worked to combat via state protections which are now at risk from the EATS Act.

But let’s take a moment to consider how the EATS Act could impact our wider grocery bill. There is no doubt in my mind that if the EATS were passed, it would create intense litigation and possibly significantly more Federal regulation and these costs are likely to be passed on to the consumer. In a time of inflation, the last thing we need is more regulation that might hike up the cost of our favorite Florida citrus or other goods. Consider this: according to the US Government Accountability Office, US food retail prices rose by 11% from 2021 to 2022. So perhaps in this case Freakamonics is impacting our agriculture. AGanomics?

Now, a hat tip to Florida Congresswoman Kat Cammack and her leadership to have the REINS Act passed by Congress. The REINS Act would broaden the Congressional Review Act to require congressional approval of major rules—those with an annual price tag of $100 million or more—before federal agencies could implement them. This is the type of legislation that offers a glimmer of hope in limiting government overreach. It’s like finding that rare, perfectly ripe piece of fruit – refreshing and satisfying.