DAILY SIGNAL: California Is Trying to Use Its ‘Market Power to Change How We Farm,’ Iowa AG Says

Iowa is calling on Congress to prevent California from overregulating the agricultural sector.

“California [is] trying to use their market power to change how we farm [and] I think that violates the Constitution,” Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird says.

California’s Proposition 12 regulations, implemented in 2022, “require veal calves, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens to be housed in systems that comply with specific standards for freedom of movement, cage-free design, and specified minimum floor space,” according to the California state government.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to Proposition 12 in May, leaving the law in place. Now, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and 10 other GOP governors have sent a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to protect the “nation’s agricultural interests from states that are working to put onerous and unfounded regulations on livestock producers that will ultimately increase food costs and hurt farming operations.”

Bird says Iowa will continue to “stand up for not just farmer’s ability to farm, but anybody that wants to do business and not be told what to do by a big, liberal state like California.”

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird—seen here waving to the crowd during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Victory Conference in Clive, Iowa, on April 22—is standing up for the Hawkeye State’s agricultural producers. (Photo: Rachel Mummey/AFP/Getty Images)

Bird joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss the fight against Proposition 12. She also discusses the court battle over Iowa’s fetal heartbeat law that would protect babies in the womb starting at about six weeks of pregnancy.

Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:

Virginia Allen: It is my pleasure today to be joined by Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird. We are here at the Iowa State Fair. Attorney General, thank you so much for being with us.

Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird: Oh, thanks. I’m so glad we’re having a great day at the fair today.

Allen: Well, it is amazing to see so many people here, so many Americans. And one of the things that we’ve been doing while we’re here at the fair is asking Americans what are the issues that are on their hearts and minds.

And Iowa has a great record of standing for life and being a state that really fights for life. In July, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a heartbeat bill into law to protect life from the time a child’s heart starts to beat. But that law is not actually in effect in Iowa right now. Why is that? Explain what’s going on.

Bird: Well, the law should be in effect, but after the law was passed and signed into law by the governor, Planned Parenthood went to court and went to district court and a judge put an injunction on it, meaning that it can’t be enforced, and we are appealing that to the Iowa Supreme Court.

I’m glad to report that I am defending our heartbeat law in Iowa, unlike my predecessor who refused to do that. I am defending our heartbeat law and I am very glad to do that.

And the Supreme Court in Iowa has taken our appeal and we will be working hard for this coming term, briefing it, the arguments, all of those things. And we are working hard to make sure also that no day is lost because every day that goes by is another day that innocent life is not being protected the way it really should be in Iowa.

Allen: What’s the timeline that we’re looking at? Do you know when the Iowa Supreme Court’s going to hear the case and when you might get a result and a ruling?

Bird: Yeah. Well, courts operate on their own timeline. So they are going to set a briefing schedule—right now, they’re in their summer recess—a briefing schedule, so we can file our briefs and argument schedule so we can have our oral argument.

And then, typically what they do is the justices all get together and figure out what their positions are on the legal issues and they work that out and then issue the opinion in due time.

So it’s really hard to say when that could happen. Theoretically, it’s anytime after the oral argument is done and typically before the end of June or at the end of June. So it’s a long time frame there. That’s not really up to us, but we will be pushing hard to get it decided as quickly as possible.

Allen: Why is this issue so important to you personally?

Bird: Well, I am pro-life and I think it’s important that, as a country, we always protect innocent human life. That is so important.

And our heartbeat law is a very good one. In fact, we passed the heartbeat law in Iowa back in 2018, believe it or not. And that one was struck down at the time. And then we have the Dobbs decision, which, I think our legal arguments are very strong to uphold our new heartbeat law.

So I am glad as attorney general to get to go to court and defend indecent human life. It’s something I really believe in as a woman and as a mom.

Allen: And you, in your position as attorney general, you’re doing so much in order just to really fight for the average Iowan, for the average American. And of course, that extends to those in the womb and to those who are farming in Iowa.

As I mentioned, we’re here at the Iowa State Fair, and you-all have taken a stand against something called Proposition 12 out of California. … As we’re here at the Iowa State Fair, there’s so much livestock—there’s cows, there’s pigs. And what California has done is they have tried to regulate the products that come into their state and that has really put a strain on so many farmers. Just talk a little bit about Proposition 12, what it is, why California’s pushing it, and how it affects farmers here in Iowa.

Bird: Yeah, that’s a real problem because here in Iowa, we produce a lot of pork—so that’s pork chops, bacon, all kinds of good food. And California, what they’re trying to do is tell Iowa farmers how to farm, how to raise their livestock.

And Iowans have always done a good job. We’ve always done a good job of raising our animals and doing a great job. I was born and raised on a family farm, so I know what that looks like. We take it very seriously here in Iowa and farmers always take good care of their animals. It’s how we’re raised and it’s part of who we are.

So when California goes and changes the rules, it’s really a big problem because an Iowa farmer who might raise pigs, that meat would go all over the United States. And so, to have California trying to use their market power to change how we farm, I think that violates the Constitution.

And that did go to the Supreme Court under the Prop 12 challenge. We were not successful with the pork producers, but the battle is far from over.

We know that the Constitution doesn’t have any super-states that get to tell everybody else what to do. That is not how it works. And so, we will continue to fight on that and stand up for not just farmers’ ability to farm, but anybody that wants to do business and not be told what to do by a big liberal state like California.

Allen: Now, you argue that Proposition 12 is a violation of the interstate commerce clause within the Constitution. Explain that a little bit more, if you would.

Bird: Yeah. The argument was that it violated the dormant interstate commerce clause, which means that a state cannot regulate commerce from another state, basically. They just can’t do that.

Now, the court found a little different way they looked at it, but we think we have some very good arguments that we can work at. And we’re seeing other states taking steps to try to control ag production in their state, too. I think Massachusetts is doing that right now.

And so we are going to, and we are, we’re hitting the books and putting together our legal arguments, and we will be fighting for Iowa farmers. And honestly, it benefits all farmers in the whole country.

Allen: And you sent a letter to members of Congress asking them to weigh in on this issue and to intervene. What are you asking Congress to do on Proposition 12?

Bird: Well, we strongly support the EATS Act, which is a piece of congressional legislation. It would basically give state attorneys general, like myself, tools that we need to push back on states like California or others that want to tell us what to do.

Allen: Finally, I want to ask you a little bit about a lawsuit that was recently filed that you-all recently filed against the Biden administration. You are suing Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency. Why?

Bird: In order to enforce our laws and Constitution. I’ve actually had to sue the Biden administration quite a few times because, well, if they would follow our Constitution and laws, I wouldn’t have to do it, but they have not been doing that.

So we have a lawsuit about E15, which is, I’ll call it an ethanol blend. OK? It’s for the gas you buy. It’s clean, it’s affordable, and it’s something that Iowans want to have. And there’s a federal law that says within 90 days of our governor asking for it, the EPA has to allow E15.

Well, our governor, Kim Reynolds, asked for it in April of 2022. OK? That is a year and four months ago she asked for it, and they didn’t do anything. They were just dragging their feet.

And so when I came into office, I took a look at it, worked with a bipartisan group of AGs, and told the EPA, “Look, you need to follow the law. If not, we’re going to enforce it.” Still nothing. And then, finally, in March, they said they would do it. They said, “We will follow the law.” And I said, “That’s great. Then I don’t have to sue them.”

But fast-forward, it’s August. They still haven’t done it. So I had to file a lawsuit, and I was glad to do it, to force them to follow the law.

It’s just that simple because when the bureaucracy is dragging its feet and just won’t do what it has to do, there aren’t very many tools out there. So the courts are a good one for us to use to take them to court and to have a federal judge force them to follow the law.

Allen: Do you have a sense of the timeline on that? How quickly this lawsuit could really get the ball moving?

Bird: Well, we’re pushing hard on it. I can tell you that. The timing will always be up to the court, but here, I think the court knows that time is of the essence. This lawsuit is all about time.

Allen: Now, we are in the midst of a presidential election. We’ve had candidates here at the Iowa State Fair this week. What do you think are the issues that are most on the minds of Iowa voters?

Bird: Well, I think there are a lot of things. As people have been stopping by my booth at the State Fair, they talk about the heartbeat law, the crisis on the southern border. I have filed a number of lawsuits there as well to enforce our border, enforce our immigration laws.

I hear from farmers that are glad that we’re working on behalf of agriculture to stand up for them against powerful D.C. interests like the EPA.

And I think another big issue, too, with my background being a prosecutor, I have a lot of folks who support law enforcement and prosecutors that I hear from that the rule of law is alive and well in Iowa, and that people respect our law enforcement and appreciate them just like I do for keeping our community safe. And unfortunately, it’s not that way everywhere in the U.S., but Iowa is still a place where law enforcement are respected.

Allen: And we’ve seen so many great law enforcement out here at the fair this week. Now, we have a debate coming up on Aug. 23. When Americans tune in and watch that, Americans like those here in Iowa that we’ve seen at the fair, what are they watching for, do you think?

Bird: Well, I think everybody wants to see how the candidates are going to answer the questions because at the end of the day, we need change in Washington. What we have there is just not working. It’s a disaster. But we also, I think most Iowans want to elect someone who will get the job done and who will do what they say they’re going to do.

So what I hear people looking for is they want to hear the substance and where people stand on the issues. I know that’s always what I’m interested in as a caucus voter. I want somebody that is right on the issues, but also knows how to get things done and will get it done in the end.

Allen: Absolutely. Well, as we’re here at the fair, I have to ask you before we let you go, best food at the fair, what do you think?

Bird: Oh boy, the traditional ones like the pork chop on a stick and the beef sundae, those are both really good. But as far as one that’s a little bit off the beaten track, I always go for the pickle dog. So it’s pastrami, there’s some cream cheese spread on it, and then you roll it up around a pickle. And it is refreshing and delicious on a hot day.

Allen: I have not had that one, so I’m going to have to check it out. Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird, thank you so much for your time today. Really appreciate it.

Bird: Oh, thanks. Thanks for coming to the fair.

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