For The Week Ending Jan. 4, 2013
FARM BILL EXTENSION APPROVED
As part of a large “fiscal cliff” deal, Congress this week approved an extension of the 2008 Farm Bill. In doing so, lawmakers averted a “dairy crisis” that would have doubled milk prices, sending them back to the terms of the 1949 Farm Bill. The nine-month extension will continue most farm programs, including funding for the market access program (MAP) and foreign market development (FMD) program, which help facilitate the sale of U.S. pork in international markets. Funding for MAP and FMD will be authorized at existing levels of $200 million and $34.5 million, respectively. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., said he plans to begin markup of a new five-year Farm Bill in late February. In related news, Thad Cochran, R-Miss., will replace Pat Roberts, R-Kan., as the ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee. The Northern grower-favoring commodity title in the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill passed by that body last year is likely to change in the next Farm Bill given Cochran’s Southern allegiance. Roberts will move to the Senate Rules Committee as ranking member.
EPA AMINISTRATOR STEPS DOWN
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson last week announced her resignation. NPPC worked well with Jackson on a number of issues. In commenting on Jackson’s departure, NPPC said the Obama administration, in nominating a new EPA administrator, has an opportunity to take a significant step toward fixing the broken waiver process in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). NPPC urges the president to nominate someone who is committed to finding the essential balance between protecting the environment and pursuing energy independence and ensuring the global competitiveness of our nation’s livestock industry.
STRIKE AT EAST COAST AND GULF CONTAINER PORTS AVOIDED
A possible strike at major east and Gulf coast container ports was avoided when the International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance this week agreed to extend until Jan. 28 negotiations on outstanding issues. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service issued a statement saying that it is “cautiously optimistic” that the parties will reach an overall collective bargaining agreement. In December NPPC and other groups representing U.S. producers, processors and exporters of livestock, poultry and meat products sent a letter to President Obama expressing concern over a possible strike and its impact on the U.S. economy. International trade is crucial to the vitality and sustainability of American animal agriculture. In 2011, U.S. exports of pork and pork products totaled 2.26 million metric tons valued at $6.2 billion, representing about 27 percent of production and adding $55 to the value of each hog marketed.
UK SUPPORTS U.S.-EU FTA NEGOTIATIONS
United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the establish of a free trade agreement with the European Union and the United States will be a key priority during the UK’s leadership of the Group of Eight (G8) nations this year. “With Europe and America together accounting for a third of global trade, perhaps the single biggest prize of all would be the beginning of negotiations on an EU-U.S. trade agreement,” wrote Cameron in a letter to leaders of the other G8 countries. NPPC strongly supports the negotiation of a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU. However, any deal must include agriculture, and the EU must address non-tariff trade barriers. The EU represents a tremendous market opportunity for U.S. pork exports, with consumption totaling 20 million metric tons annually, making it the second largest market in the world for pork consumption. However, numerous barriers result in small quantities of U.S. pork imports. Current U.S. pork exports to the EU amount to less than a quarter percent of EU consumption. In addition to multiple quotas with high in-quota duties, the EU maintains numerous non-science-based sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) barriers to the importation of U.S. pork. These barriers include a ban on ractopamine, mandatory trichinae testing, prohibition on pathogen reduction treatments and a costly plant approval system.
FORMER NPPC PRESIDENT PASSES AWAY
Former NPPC President John Soorholtz passed away Dec. 28. A hog farmer from Melbourne, Iowa, Soorholtz also served as president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association and the Iowa Hampshire Association. He was the first chairman of the Iowa Beginning Family Farm Loan Program, a member of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Advisory Committee and chairman of the Purebred Swine Council. Among his awards, Soorholtz was named Iowa Master Pork Producer in 1971 and received the National Hog Farmer award for outstanding work in the hog industry in 1977. As an Iowa state senator from 1983 to 1992, Soorholtz successfully managed a number of bills important to pork producers through the legislative process, including ones related to the Pork Check-Off, pseudorabies and the Iowa Beginning Family Farm Loan Program. In 2010 he was elected to NPPC’s Hall of Fame.
CAPITAL UPDATE BREAKS WITH CONGRESS
The 113th Congress will convene Jan. 18; the next edition of Capital Update will be issued Jan. 20.