For The Week Ending June 22, 2012
SENATE PASSES 2012 FARM BILL, HOUSE TO BEGIN MARKUP IN JULY
The Senate this week passed its version of the 2012 Farm Bill, officially referred to as the “Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012,” by a 64-35 vote. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Ranking Member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., narrowed the number of amendments to the legislation from more than 200 to 73. The “Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012” and an amendment to ban packer ownership of animals, both of which NPPC strongly opposed, were dropped from consideration during the Farm Bill debate. An amendment to end all commodity checkoff programs and one related to labeling food containing genetically engineered ingredients failed overwhelmingly. An amendment to defund the foreign market development (FMD) program and the market access program (MAP), which help facilitate the sale of U.S. pork in international markets, also was defeated. Lawmakers approved an amendment sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and John Kerry, D-Mass., that repeals the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s catfish inspection program. In the 2008 Farm Bill a provision was inserted to move inspection of catfish from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to USDA, a duplicative regulation that would have required an establishment that processes catfish to be inspected by both agencies. Repeal of the 2008 catfish legislation is important to U.S. exporters, including food and agriculture groups such as NPPC, because the United States is vulnerable to a challenge of the dual inspection of catfish at the World Trade Organization. Vietnam, a major catfish exporter and one of the countries in the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations, strongly objected to the inspection regulations. Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes estimates that Vietnam could be a huge market for the U.S. pork industry pending the outcome of the TPP talks.
MEXICO, CANADA INVITED TO JOIN TPP
The United States and the eight other countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement invited Mexico and Canada to join the TPP negotiations. TPP is a regional trade pact that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The TPP negotiations represent the best opportunity for the U.S. pork industry to remove sanitary-phytosanitary barriers to trade and eliminate import duties in the countries involved in the negotiations. The TPP countries represent a population of more than 195 million people, and in 2011 the United States exported $294 million of pork and pork products to these countries. Japan also has expressed interest in joining the TPP negotiations. The United States and Japan are continuing consultations regarding Japan’s entry into the TPP. NPPC continues to push for Japan’s entry into negotiations as soon as possible.
HEARINGS HELD ON RUSSIA’S WTO ACCESSION
The House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee invited Obama administration officials to testify on authorizing permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) for Russia and on ending the application of the Jackson-Vanik law. The Russian legislature is likely to vote on ratification of the country’s World Trade Organization accession package in the next few weeks, a move that will compel Congress to vote on extending PNTR status to Russia and on repealing the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which affects U.S. trade with countries that restrict freedom of emigration and that have poor records on human rights. The U.S. pork industry has concerns about a number of matters related to Russia’s WTO accession, primarily related to non-science-based trade barriers that have severely affected U.S. pork exports to Russia. This week, those concerns were raised in a letter to President Obama signed by 34 senators, led by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., asking the administration to obtain firm commitments from Russia on outstanding sanitary-phytosanitary issues and guarantees to uphold science-based international standards for trade in pork, beef and poultry products.
NPPC ATTENDS FOOD SAFETY MODERNIZATION ACT MEETING
NPPC staff Tuesday attended a Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) public meeting, which served as an opportunity to discuss the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s comprehensive plan to expand the technical, scientific and regulatory capacity of international governments and food industries in countries that export to the United States. Panelists from various stakeholder groups as well as industry representatives were present to evaluate FDA recommendations. The agency is developing the plan pursuant to the FMSA. The docket is available for comment through July 20. NPPC is in the process of developing comments.
NEW ANIMAL HOUSING STANDARDS WOULD REQUIRE FIRE SPRINKLERS
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) last week voted to amend its standards for animal housing facilities, requiring fire sprinkler systems in newly constructed and some existing facilities. The NFPA is a standard-setting organization, and its uniform codes and standards are widely utilized by state and local governments to set building and fire codes, by insurance companies as minimum standards to maintain coverage and by international organizations. Last week’s change is a substantial expansion of the standards for animal housing. In the past, the sprinkler requirement has applied only to facilities such as zoos, veterinary clinics and pet shops. But the new revisions would cover all barns and any other facilities where animals are kept or confined. NPPC believes the overbroad fire codes have the potential to significantly increase the cost of new barn construction and maintenance and could subject producers to biosecurity risks during annual sprinkler system inspections. NPPC is in the process of filing with NFPA an appeal of the decision to amend the animal housing standards.
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE PASSES AGRICULTURAL FUNDING BILL
The House Appropriations Committee Tuesday approved the fiscal 2013 agriculture appropriations bill, which funds a variety of government programs and services, including food safety, animal and plant health, rural development and farm services and nutrition programs. The bill included $19.4 billion in discretionary funding, with a decrease of $365 million from the fiscal 2012 amount and a decrease of $1.7 billion below the president’s budget request. To read more, click here.
HOUSE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE TO BEGIN WRITING FARM BILL
The House Agriculture Committee is set to begin writing their version of the 2012 Farm Bill July 11.
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER INTERIOR AND ENVIRONMENT BILL
The House Appropriations Committee next Wednesday will mark up the FY 2013 Interior and Environment Bill.