116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
California has declared war on bacon. At least that’s how our state’s Republican political leaders are describing it.
In 2018, 63 percent of California voters supported a ballot measure, the “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,” requiring larger confinement spaces for raising chickens, veal and pork sold in that state. Meat raised in smaller spaces violating the act cannot be sold in California.
Chicken and veal producers have adapted to meet the act’s requirements, which take effect in 2022. But pork producers argue the changes needed are too costly. Iowa is the nation’s top pork-producing state. California represents 15 percent of the market. The Golden State doesn’t raise enough of its own pork to meet bacon demand.
"California's radical effort to ban agriculture products grown and raised in states like Iowa is not just an attack on our hardworking farmers and producers, it's an attack on anyone who likes to eat bacon for breakfast,” said 1st District U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson in a statement issued as she introduced the EATS Act. The Exposing Agricultural Trade Suppression Act would bar states and local governments from imposing rules that interfere with the production of agricultural products in other states.
“California liberals think that bacon is grown at the grocery store,” Hinson said.
Bacon comes from meatpacking plants largely staffed by immigrant workers who were infected by the thousands during the pandemic. Duh, California.
Hinson and 4th District U.S. Rep. Randy Feenstra underscored their sizzling scorn for California after flipping chops at the Iowa State Fair. U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst are sponsoring legislation prohibiting states from adopting ag rules more strict than federal standards.
This is certainly a meatier debate that the “war on meat” declared in the spring after Bill Gates said in an interview that synthetic meat is more climate friendly than livestock production. Gov. Kim Reynolds responded by declaring April “Meat on the Table Month” in Iowa. Meanwhile, every month is “The Check is in the Mail Month” for the governor’s major donors in the livestock industry.
And don’t even mention that time the U.S. Department of Agriculture government cafeteria considered meatless Mondays. Shudder.
It’s odd that we often hear from agricultural groups, agribusiness interests and producers about all the innovations and technological advancements that make farming more productive and efficient. Satellites, plant genetics and high-tech equipment are driving the industry’s future. And yet everything else has to stand still to benefit farmers’ economic interests.
For example, we can’t better define which wetlands and streams should be protected by the federal Clean Water Act through the Waters of the U.S. rules because farm groups oppose them.
“I firmly believe that bureaucrats who’ve never set foot in Iowa should not be able to regulate our ditches and ponds on our farms,” said Hinson, who supports going back to Trump-era rules that left scores of wetlands open for development.
Never mind that Hinson’s take is phony. Agriculture is largely exempt from the Clean Water Act.
So we can’t have better, more effective clean water rules because farmers would rather construct a fictional narrative about regulated puddles, with hopes of putting off the day when the government finally decides to stop them from allowing pollutants to flow into waterways. We understand how watersheds work, but can’t put that science to work.
And as has been said in this space many times before, measures that improve water quality also help prevent flooding. A changing climate is bringing more heavy rainfall events, but, oddly enough, nobody ever seems to declare a war on flooding.
We also can’t encourage the development and broader use of electric vehicle technology because it would be bad for ethanol. The Biden administration wants half of the nation’s new vehicles to be running on electricity by 2030 as part of an effort to combat climate change.
“President Biden’s shortsighted stance on electric vehicles is undermining Iowa’s renewable fuel industry while simultaneously jeopardizing America’s energy independence,” Reynolds said in a statement earlier this month.
Embracing new, cleaner technology is shortsighted. Instead, we should continue propping up an industry that’s been trying to find its footing for 40 years.
And, as we now know, Californians shouldn’t be allowed to dictate how the food they eat is raised. They’re not real Americans like the Hansen family, which owns Iowa Select Farms, the nation’s fourth-largest pork producer. They’ve donated $400,000 to the governor since 2017.
“California’s prop 12 is a classic example of farmers and producers being excluded from policy conversations that impact their ability to feed and fuel the world,” Hinson tweeted recently.
That’s rich, considering Iowans who care about clean water and the environment have been shut out of every meaningful conversation on state environmental and agricultural rules for years. Agricultural interests have filled all the seats at the table. That’s how it becomes OK to build an 11,600-head cattle feedlot in the watershed of one of Iowa’s cleanest trout streams.
The status quo must be upheld at all cost, no matter how much we have to shred the common good. But, in the long run, is digging in to shield agriculture from changing consumer preferences, growing climate concerns and an increasing unwillingness to accept dirty water really doing farmers any favors? Change is going to come, someday.
But not now. So I guess if we can’t get more people to move to Iowa, we can force the rest of the nation to live by our flimsy rules. It’s the absolute least we can do.
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