The Farm Bill proposal by House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson made it through an initial markup discussion and passed through the House Agricultural Committee with bipartisan support. While there is still a long road between now and what is ultimately enacted, there are a few provisions in the proposed bill of particular interest to folks in animal agriculture.

One proposed provision would prohibit states from setting conditions for sale on products derived from “covered livestock,” if those conditions are different than those imposed by the state where the animal was raised.  As a reminder, the US Supreme Court recently ruled that states do have the ability to set sales restrictions, allowing California to enforce specific provisions of their law commonly known as “Prop 12”.  If the farm bill proposal is enacted, it would prohibit California (and Massachusetts) from enforcing their current sales restrictions.  Additionally, it would prevent other states (such as New York, which is considering a similar bill), from enforcing any in the future.  Note, however, that the definition of “covered livestock” in the farm bill proposal specifically excludes laying hens.  In other words, the provisions of Prop 12 covering pork and veal products would not be enforceable, but the provisions requiring cage free egg production would be.  Similarly, other states that have passed or are considering laws requiring specified types of production methods for egg laying hens could still enforce those requirements.

Another proposed provison would create a pilot program allowing some custom exempt facilities to sell meat products directly to consumers.  “Custom exempt” does not require continuous inspection by a FSIS or state inspector during the slaughter process.  Currently, “custom exempt” meat cannot be sold, and is instead only available for consumption by the owner of the living animal.  Explainer here.  The farm bill proposal would allow participating custom exempt plants to sell the meat to the public.  There would be some conditions on the sale, including that the meat could not be re-sold past the original buyer.  The current language of the pilot program would allow for operation until 2029.

The Farm Bill is still a moving target, and provisions may look very different when/if they are ultimately passed.  However, they would both have a significant impact for livestock producers and should be watched carefully during the process.