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Rep. Steve King fails to pass amendment that threatened animal protection

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A controversial amendment that potentially compromised and threatened state animal protection laws was stripped from the 2013 Farm Bill today.

Rep. Steve King, a republican from Iowa, had proposed the Protect Interstate Commerce Act (also known as the King amendment) as part of the House version of the U.S. farm bill. It prohibits states from enacting any laws that set standards for agricultural production that exceed those in other states governing the same production.

The King amendment was proposed in response to California’s new law requiring that all eggs sold in the state come from chickens kept in non-confining cages. Rep. King says California’s law violates the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution. The King amendment would have prohibited states from enacting any laws that set standards for agricultural production that exceeded those in other states governing the same production.

Iowa is the nation’s largest egg-producing state and, while the California law cannot mandate Iowa’s production standards, Iowa will have to conform to California’s standards for eggs shipped from Iowa to California. In other words, Iowa will have to supply California only with eggs from chickens kept in non-confining cages.

King’s amendment was widely criticized as misguided and overly broad. Animal welfare advocates, state legislators and some legal experts said the amendment would it also invalidate hundreds of state laws on animal protection, food safety and even labor welfare. Many of these are laws which have been on the books for years, and some have already survived challenges to their constitutionality. Critics believed the King amendment could go so far as to invalidate laws which protect consumers from dangerous pesticides on produce, or chemicals used in some animal feedstuffs, such as arsenic, which has been banned in several states.

Rep. King dismissed the concerns raised by opponents of the amendment, saying his amendment was only designed to target the California egg legislation and was not intended as an attack on animal protection. He added that he could not “identify unintended consequences” if the amendment were to pass.

King has dueled with animal welfare advocates. He has consistently voted against any animal welfare or animal protection legislation proposed in Iowa, or at the federal level. In an infamous and bizarre diatribe, King once defended taking children to dog fighting events, saying there was "something wrong" with making attendance at a dog fight a federal crime, if the same penalty were not applied to spectators at boxing matches. The statement was widely reported by media, including comedian Stephen Colbert's late night satire show, the Colbert Report.

The Senate version of the Farm Bill did not include the King amendment. Opponents of the King amendment had been urging congressional legislators to pass the Senate version of the bill, to remove the King amendment, and to ensure that gains in animal protection and food safety legislation would not be lost .

Late, Monday evening, they got their wish.

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