The Farm Bill’s Threats to Animal Welfare

May 25, 2018


Every five years Congress considers a Farm Bill that impacts our nation’s farms, nutrition programs and environment. Though the U.S. House will have to try again to pass a Farm Bill, the Senate will be moving forward with its own version of the bill in the coming weeks.

Instead of using the Farm Bill as a vehicle to improve animal welfare and encourage better treatment of farm animals, Congress historically uses this bill to incentivize Big Ag and industrialized factory farming. This year’s Farm Bill is no exception. Big Ag is pushing two proposals in the Farm Bill that would strike a blow to animal welfare protections and prevent future improvements for farm animals.

The first provision, which we’ve told you about before, is the dreaded King Provision. This measure, authored by Rep. Steve King (R-IA), was added to the House’s version of the Farm Bill. It seeks to strip states and localities of the ability to pass and enforce laws regarding the production of any “agricultural products”—a term so broad that it includes not only farm animals like cows and pigs, but also potentially dogs in puppy mills. This is a clear overreach of federal power that would not only stop states from passing new laws, but would eliminate protections already in place, creating a disastrous race to the bottom for animal welfare. Big Ag wants to use this provision to get rid of laws like Question 3 in Massachusetts, a ballot measure that resulted in one of the most comprehensive farm animal-protection measures in the country.

Big Ag is also floating a proposal in the Senate to severely weaken the ability of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to make recommendations, such as those that served as the basis of the recently withdrawn Organic animal welfare rule, for our nation’s organic farms. Consumers expect higher welfare for animals raised under the USDA Organic label, and the NOSB has consistently recommended changes to meet these expectations. However, Big Ag wants to take over this board, curtail its power, and halt any progress for higher animal welfare.

The ASPCA is currently working to ensure that the final Farm Bill does not contain these dangerous proposals, but we need your help! If you haven’t yet, please join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade to make sure you’re in the loop when the Farm Bill moves to the House and Senate floors.