Telegraph Harold | Kalbach: EATS Act a Tasty Treat for Corporate Ag

Reposted from:

June 24, 2024

When the House Agriculture Committee marked up its draft Farm Bill in late May, it included a provision that’s a big gift for the corporate livestock industry. Dubbed the EATS Act (Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression), the measure would strip state and local governments of their ability to enact policies that protect our air, land and water from problems caused by factory farms.

Most of the attention, including a recent guest column in the Telegraph Herald by former Iowa Pork Producers Association President Trish Cook, has focused on how EATS would challenge California’s Proposition 12. Using corporate ag talking points, Cook and others are trying to portray factory farms as the victim. That’s just not true.

The reality is that Prop 12 was passed in 2018 by a huge majority of voters (63% to 37%). It requires hog factories in California to allow more space and freedom of movement for confined animals (sows, in particular). It also says California retailers can’t sell meat in their state if it doesn’t comply with this standard.

Prop 12 incensed the industrial livestock lobby, particularly in Iowa. All of Iowa’s U.S. senators and representatives have joined the EATS bandwagon. Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst, and Reps. Ashley Hinson, Randy Feenstra, Zach Nunn and Marionette Miller-Meeks are all co-sponsors of the EATS Act. Gov. Kim Reynolds also supports EATS. Our delegation wants to shield the factory farm industry from local control and other state and local measures that protect people and our environment.

Thousands of everyday Iowans have worked for years to strengthen environmental standards, assure local government authority to restrict factory farms, and mandate serious fines and penalties for polluters. We want our state and county governments to do more to protect our water, air and land from factory farm pollution. Industrial livestock operations should be regulated like any other industry that produces high levels of pollution and public health risks.

Factory farm rules, as minimal as they are in Iowa these days, are deeply personal to me. Back in 2002, a developer from 60 miles away wanted to build a 7,000-head sow confinement just 1,975 feet from our house in rural Adair County. Every year, 10 million gallons of liquid manure would be hauled up and down the gravel roads in our community and applied on various fields.

Our neighbors joined with us and Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI) to fight back against this invasion. We worked with our local Board of Supervisors to voice our concerns. And because of our state laws (and grassroots organizing), we were able to stop that factory farm from being built.

Those of us challenging factory farms are not taking this corporate power grab lightly. Over 120 grassroots organizations across the U.S. — including Iowa CCI — will keep organizing and talking with our neighbors throughout the Farm Bill debate to make sure EATS is removed from the final legislative package. The Senate draft is coming soon, and it doesn’t include EATS. Thirty U.S. senators and 172 U.S. representatives have signed letters opposing EATS in the Farm Bill. Those numbers are far more than the handful of co-sponsors captured by the factory farm lobby.

Let’s be clear: EATS serves the interests of industrial livestock operations. As local people push back against corporate ag, we need more control over what happens in our communities, not less. And we don’t need our elected officials working against us.

Kalbach lives in Adair County. She’s a fourth-generation family farmer, registered nurse and board president of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement.