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US House members oppose bill that would overturn California animal welfare law

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By Leah Douglas

(Reuters) – A significant minority of members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday said they opposed a federal bill that would overturn a California animal welfare law, arguing it infringes on states’ rights.

The Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act would curb states’ ability to regulate agricultural products sold within their borders, and is in part aimed at California’s Proposition 12, which sets housing standards for animals used for pork, veal, and eggs sold in the state.

But the bill could also threaten numerous state laws related to food safety and public health and represents an overreach of the federal government, said 171 members of the House of Representatives in a letter sent Monday to House Agriculture Committee chair G.T. Thompson and ranking member David Scott.

“We believe that Congress should not usurp the power of states to regulate food and agricultural products,” wrote the bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Democrat Earl Blumenauer. “The federal government should play a complementary role to the states on agriculture policy, rather than rendering them powerless.”

The members urged Thompson and Scott not to include the EATS Act in the upcoming farm bill, a package passed every five years that funds nutrition and farm support programs. The House and Senate Agriculture Committees draft the bill.

Thompson and Scott’s offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30, though Congress will likely need to pass a short-term extension due to delays drafting and negotiating the next bill.

The National Pork Producers Council, which lost a Supreme Court challenge to Proposition 12 in May, supports the EATS Act, but some large pork companies that have already spent money to comply with the California law are opposed to the bill.

Proposition 12 takes effect on Jan. 1.

(Reporting by Leah Douglas; Editing by Conor Humphries)

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