Person on horseback in a rural setting looking at a herd of cattle in the distance

Local meat producers in Pennsylvania rally against EATS Act

© iStock - WestwindPhoto
Kathryn Carley

(Keystone State News Connection) Advocates for locally controlled family farms in Pennsylvania say a proposed amendment to the 2023 Farm Bill would gut states' ability to regulate their own farming practices. 

The Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act aims to counter Proposition 12, a California law which mandates better conditions for all farm animals raised or sold in that state. 

Ben Buchanan - butcher and CEO of Unified Fields, a small-scale meat processor in Pittsburgh - said farmers who adopt humane practices could be pushed out of the market, forcing consumers to purchase from just a small group of large-scale meat producers.

"I mean, they would just have less access to choice in the market," said Buchanan, "and in what they could get for healthy options."

Proponents of the EATS Act contend it is needed to streamline interstate commerce and prevent states from passing more laws that impose restrictions on farmers in other states. 

A recent Harvard University study suggests the EATS Act would jeopardize more than 1,000 public health, safety and animal welfare laws. 

They include protections against infectious disease in livestock or protocols regarding the use of pesticides. 

Buchanan said many people appreciate knowing where and how their meat is produced, and the greater care local producers take with the land.

"I feel like the more people engage with agriculture," said Buchanan, "the more wholesome the food becomes in general."

Renewal of the Farm Bill has been delayed due to recent paralysis in Congress, but Buchanan said there's a growing bipartisan group of lawmakers voicing their opposition to the EATS Act

Some legal scholars also contend the Act could be unconstitutional for impinging on states' rights to legislate for the protection of their citizens' health.