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King Amendment to US Farm Bill could wreak havoc on food safety rules

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The US House of Representatives version of the 2014 Farm Bill contains a provision from Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) that could negate most state and local laws on the production or manufacture of agricultural products.

According to groups opposed to the amendment, including the Humane Society of the United States, the King Amendment is a radical federal overreach that aims to block state laws protecting animals. It could also overturn many state laws covering child labor, dangerous pesticides, labels on farm-raised fish, GMO labeling, and more.

If passed as part of this year's Farm Bill, the King Amendment would undo animal welfare laws in many states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, the Northern Mariana Island, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Rhode Island.

The amendment would also overturn laws requiring labeling of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) in Connecticut and Maine, and preempt other states from passing similar laws. There are currently efforts in more than 20 states to pass GMO labeling requirements.

Other state laws that would be nullified by the King Amendment include:

• Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Washington laws requiring labeling of farm-raised fish.

• Vermont’s ban on BPA in baby food jars and infant food containers.

• Maryland’s ban on arsenic in poultry feed.

• California’s Proposition 65 requiring the state to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, or other reproductive harm, and businesses to notify citizens about significant amounts of chemicals in products, homes, workplaces, or released into the environment.

• State pollution standards, such as bans on spraying sewage on crops directly before they are fed to people, and laws such as Minnesota’s requiring farmers to hire a licensed sludge applicator and restricting when and how sludge can be applied to cropland or pasture.

• Bans on use of dangerous pesticides on crops, such as California’s ban on methyl iodide use for strawberries.

• Iowa’s labeling requirements and germination standards for seeds.

• Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Wisconsin laws restricting firewood transported into the state in order to protect against invasive pests and damage to local forests.

• Iowa’s requirement for labeling of artificial sweeteners in products.

• South Dakota’s label requirements for distiller’s grains sold as livestock feed to specify sulfur percentage.

The amendment would also overturn various laws concerning agricultural employment, including child labor laws, standards for inspections and certification programs, laws governing use of dangerous farm machinery (such as Washington’s mandate for certain guards on farm field equipment including tractors), and health and safety standards for agricultural employees (such as Washington’s code regulating issues including field sanitation, pesticides, respiratory hazards, and hearing loss prevention.

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