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30 Law Professors Urge Congress To Oppose the EATS Act

Nov. 15, 2023
They join more than 200 federal lawmakers in opposing the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression Act, which would invalidate a California law requiring better treatment of farm animals.

Thirty law professors from law schools around the country have joined more than 200 federal lawmakers in opposing the “Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression” (EATS) Act (H.R. 4417 and S. 2019), which would invalidate a California law requiring better treatment of hogs raised for pork, regardless of where the pigs come from.

The Nov. 13 letter to leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees said the EATS Act would lead to “an unprecedented chilling of state and local legislation on matters historically regulated at the state and local level” and “create a staggeringly uncertain legal and regulatory landscape.”

“The EATS Act could invalidate hundreds or thousands of state laws and regulations relating to consumer safety, zoonotic and infectious disease regulations, food quality, and safety regulations,” the letter states. The legislation would create “an almost impossibly broad” private right of action to challenge state agricultural laws and regulations, subjecting states and localities to a likely onslaught of lengthy and costly litigation.”

Passed with overwhelming voter support in 2018, California’s Proposition 12 sets minimum standards for the confinement of hogs raised for pork. It applies to all pork sold in the state, from any source, within or outside California. In the last of several appeals of the law, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly upheld the law this summer.

The EATS Act seeks to limit the power of individual states to set their own standards for agricultural products, even those produced outside their borders, because such laws could create a national patchwork of conflicting regulations for food processors.

“If Congress adopts the EATS Act or anything remotely like it—even if its proponents claim that they have significantly narrowed it in response to criticism—legislative and judicial chaos will ensue across the 50 states,” said Kristen Stilt, professor of law at Harvard University’s Brooks McCormick Jr. Animal Law & Policy Program. “The short text of the EATS Act belies the fact that it could strike thousands of pages of state laws that protect the health and welfare of the citizenry.” 

The other 29 law professors were from University of California, UCLA, Pace University, Temple University, University of Michigan, Northwestern, University of Oregon, Michigan State University, Lewis & Clark, George Washington University, Chicago Kent, Yale, University of San Francisco, University of Denver, Creighton, American University, University of Baltimore, Emory, Stanford, Vermont and New York University.

They join more than 200 federal lawmakers, including 30 senators and 172 representatives spanning 35 states, who have now publicly stated that neither the EATS Act nor anything like it should be part of the upcoming Farm Bill. In addition, a diverse set of more than 2,000 entities, including organizations, individuals and more than 1,200 farms across the country have publicly stated opposition to the EATS Act.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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