Juliet Stein

Why the Jewish Community Needs to Fight the Farm Bill’s Passage

A provision called the 'EATS Act' being snuck into the Farm Bill would wipe out state Kosher labeling laws. (iStock)
A provision called the 'EATS Act' being snuck into the Farm Bill would wipe out state Kosher labeling laws. (iStock)

In a shocking display of either ignorance, insensitivity, or purposeful antisemitism, Representative Ashley Hinson of Iowa has introduced a piece of legislation known as the “EATS Act,” which harms the Jewish community. Her bill, which she’s threatening to add to the 2023 Farm Bill, does what Jewish people today never thought we’d have to deal with in our country: an elimination of the hard-fought state-level Kosher laws that our community fought to enact for decades. Her bill would invalidate all of them in one fell swoop. 

Hinson’s legislation is simply the notoriously offensive “Steve King Amendment” with a different title. Yes, the former Rep. Steve King who was one of the most notorious antisemites to ever hold American office. To Jews, we came to expect Steve King attempting to pass this legislation throughout his time in office. What we didn’t see coming is that Congresswoman Hinson would carry his mantle forward, particularly because she has, at times, voted to support Israel. 

Jewish families have tirelessly fought for the recognition and preservation of state-level Kosher laws, with the first being passed in our country more than a hundred years ago. These laws hold immense importance for Jewish parents seeking to provide their children with food that aligns with their religious beliefs. Rep. Hinson’s EATS Act is an affront to the Jewish community and sends a dangerous message that Kosher laws can simply be disregarded and erased. 

Representative Hinson may feign ignorance on how her legislation would wipe out Kosher laws. After all, that was Steve King’s strategy. We shouldn’t fall for it – activists have flagged for over a decade that this proposal would ruin state-level Kosher laws, yet Rep. Hinson proceeded with this anyway. Even if Rep. Hinson were to amend the bill to fix this controversy, Jews know better than to accept the deal because of the precedent this sets. We’ve come too far as a community to put our trust in anyone following in the footsteps of Steve King. We cannot allow even an amended version of the bill to pass—or allow it to be snuck into the Farm Bill, which is a sly way politicians get controversial laws in place. 

 If they start with a narrow version of this bill, they’ll be back to strip our Kosher laws. Don’t think it could happen? Steve King tried to wipe out Kosher laws for a decade and now we have his understudy–Representative Hinson–is trying it again.  

 We must not underestimate the danger inherent in the EATS Act. It directly threatens the ability of Jewish individuals to adhere to their dietary requirements and maintain their religious traditions. The erosion of Kosher laws not only jeopardizes the religious freedom of Jews but also diminishes the cultural heritage and identity that these laws represent.  

Either Representative Hinson comprehends the impact abolishing Kosher laws would have on the Jewish community, or simply doesn’t understand. Let’s take the more forgiving scenario that she’s just ignorant to the importance of Judaism to Jews. One cannot help but wonder if her indifference stems from the fact that there are fewer Jewish individuals in her state of Iowa compared to some states. Does Representative Hinson lack Jewish friends or colleagues who could have educated her about the offensive nature of her actions? Was accepting $5,000 from the National Pork Producers Council all it took for Rep. Hinson to waive off any consideration of how Jewish communities would be impacted by no longer knowing which foods are labeled Kosher? 

If you’re wondering if Rep. Hinson’s goal is to trick Jews into eating pork from Iowa by ensuring we can’t differentiate the products, you’re in good company. 

That’s why Jews are hoping that Representative GT Thompson, the chair of the House agriculture committee and responsible for passage of the Farm Bill, will understand how devastating it would be to include the EATS Act–or any derivative of it–in the Farm Bill. The loss of Kosher labeling laws would shatter our belief that Jews truly have a place in our country.  

It is essential for lawmakers—even if not representing districts with as many Jews as others—to recognize the responsibility they have in protecting the rights and beliefs of all their constituents, regardless of their religious or cultural backgrounds. With antisemitism on the rise in our country, the EATS Act is a “you’re not welcome here” sign put up at Representative Hinson’s office door to Jewish Americans.   

About the Author
Juliet Stein is the Vice President of WD Biotech, an alternative protein investment firm, and has been an archaeobotanist & guest lecturer at University of Pennsylvania, a board member of the Jewish National Fund Futures Philadelphia Chapter, and started a local foundation dedicated to Jewish education and Israel advocacy.
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