With the current Farm Bill set to expire on Sept. 30, the U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee adopted a provision in mid-July for the proposed 2012 Farm Bill. This provision would prevent state or local governments from enacting or enforcing different standards or conditions for the production or manufacture of agricultural products sold in interstate commerce when legally produced in another state. The House has yet to take up the legislation and the Senate version does not contain a comparable provision. Assuming the House was to take up and pass the Farm Bill, the different Senate and House versions would require reconciliation by a Conference Committee. As of today, the fate of the Farm Bill is unknown.
The language in the House Committee Bill is designed to counter-act recently enacted state limitations on production agriculture such as, but not limited to, California’s requirement that beginning in 2015, eggs from caged hens be produced from hens with larger cages, banning so-called “battery cages.” The language as drafted is clearly broader than that one issue and may affect other areas of production agriculture. Some commentators are concerned that this could also impact the ability of state departments of agriculture to impose emergency quarantines to prevent in-bound plant and animal shipments that may contain pests or diseases that threaten local farm industries. Although it may not reach as far as some critics contend, anyone involved in agriculture production, distribution, and sale should take an interest in this important development.