Before Congress vacays for most of August, the 2008 Farm Bill will either be extended or replaced by a new 2012 version. One of the great debates to rise from this issue centers around Congressman Steve King’s (R-IA) amendment which nullifies state laws restricting trade with other states on issues of agriculture and food safety. Get this: some progressives are upset about a conservative citing the “power to regulate”! How does that work?
Typically, when a federal legislator invokes the Commerce Clause, some level of chicanery is afoot. Here, however, Steve King may actually have gotten it right. In 2008, California voters passed an initiative that in 2014 begins stricter regulations on egg production within the state as well as demanding the same level of animal protection from the other 49. The second half of that authority is what King recognizes as a violation of the Commerce Clause.
“I am pleased that the Committee passed my amendment, the Protect Interstate Commerce Act (PICA) because states are entering into trade protectionism by requiring cost prohibitive production methods in other states,” said King. “PICA blocks states from requiring ‘free range’ eggs or ‘free range’ pork but covers all agriculture products listed in section 206 of the Agriculture Marketing Act of 1946. By 2014 California will require only ‘free range’ eggs be sold and the impact of their large market would compel producers in every other state to invest billions to meet the California standard of “means of production.”
Regular readers at Tenth Amendment Center may already know the originalist interpretation of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3. Rob Natelson covers the evolutionary history of the legal definition of “commerce” here (PDF).
He deserves credit for being correct on the Commerce Clause here, but is Steve King as outraged by Gonzalez vs. Raich as he is about California chicken-raising standards that hurt his top donors in corporate farming?
I doubt it.