For The Week Ending March 1, 2013
SEQUESTER COULD AFFECT USDA MEAT INSPECTORS
So-called sequestration – automatic, across-the-board cuts in federal spending – takes effect some time today and could have an impact on pork producers, according to NPPC. Congressional lawmakers and the White House agreed to the sequester provision as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011. It would take effect if a budget-cutting “Super Committee” – also part of the 2011 act – failed (it did) to achieve $1.2 trillion in savings over 10 years. Sequestration requires about $85 billion in federal spending cuts between March 1 and Oct. 1. Secretary Tom Vilsack has said his department may be forced by sequestration to furlough federal meat inspectors, a move that would force packing plants to close. While the layoffs could be for up to 15 days, USDA has not yet offered a plan for furloughs. In a letter sent Feb.11, NPPC joined other livestock, poultry and food organization in urging Vilsack to “examine all options available to meet (USDA) obligations under sequestration while upholding its commitment to ensuring that American consumers have access to the safe, wholesome, and nutritious protein sources they have come to expect from the nation’s meat, poultry, and egg products industries.” Click here to read the letter. NPPC is monitoring the sequester process.
SENATE COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON ANIMAL DRUG USER FEE ACT
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Wednesday held a hearing on reauthorizing the Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA). First enacted in 2003, ADUFA allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to collect user fees from drug sponsors; those fees go toward review of various drugs that companies want to get approved. The fees supplement FDA’s annual congressionally approved appropriation and have enabled the agency to dramatically reduce its review time for new animal drugs, bringing medications to market more quickly while maintaining high standards for safety and effectiveness. NPPC is urging lawmakers to approve a “clean” reauthorization bill. During the 2008 ADUFA reauthorization – the law must be reauthorized every five years – groups opposed to modern livestock production sought to include an amendment to ban certain antibiotics from use in food animals. The HELP Committee is expected to mark up its version of the ADUFA bill this spring; the House Committee on Energy and Commerce is expected to act on the bill after that. The intent is to have the bill passed through Congress prior to August recess.
AMS TO BEGIN REPORTING OF THE MANDATORY, VOLUNTARY WHOLESALE PORK REPORTS
USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) this week announced April 1 as the beginning of simultaneous reporting of the mandatory and voluntary wholesale pork reports under Mandatory Price Reporting (MPR). The mandatory report, which AMS began publishing in January, is currently being published one week after the voluntary report. AMS intends to transition from a one-week delay to a one-day delay starting the week of March 25-29. At the urging of NPPC, mandatory reporting of wholesale pork was added to the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting, during that law’s 2010 reauthorization. A negotiated rulemaking committee, on which an NPPC representative served, created the framework for the reporting system. NPPC advocated for making reporting of wholesale pork cuts mandatory under the price reporting law as a way to provide producers more options in pricing their hogs and more accurate price discovery in the marketplace. Click here to view the notice.
ANTIBIOTICS BILL INTRODUCED, ANIMAL HEALTH EXPERTS BRIEFS CAPITOL HILL STAFF
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., this week introduced the “Delivering Antimicrobial Transparency in Animals (DATA) Act,” a bill that would require feedmills to submit detailed annual reports to FDA on medicated feed mixed for livestock. The bill would require FDA to report percentages of antimicrobials sold for growth promotion and feed efficiency, disease prevention, disease control and disease treatment. FDA would also be required to breakdown drugs sold or distributed in each state and the quantity of drugs sold for each class of animal. NPPC is opposed to the bill, pointing out that it would burden food producers and FDA without any scientific rationalization or public health benefits. Increased attention has been given to the issue of antibiotics in agriculture recently, particularly with Congress considering ADUFA. NPPC, as part of the Coalition for Animal Health, this week helped educate lawmakers about antibiotics use in agriculture, hosting several briefings on Capitol Hill on the subject of “Meat Production, Public Health and the Importance of Antibiotics.” Taking part in these briefings were animal health industry experts Dr. Rich Carnevale, VMD, representing the Animal Health Institute; Dr. Christine Hoang, DVM, MPH, CPH, representing the American Veterinary Medical Association; and Dr. Scott Hurd, DVM, PhD, from Iowa State University, representing the livestock production sector. The intent of the briefing was to address the many misconceptions that exist about antibiotic use in agriculture and the role that agriculture may play in contributing to antibiotic resistance.
LOS ANGELES AND LONG BEACH PORT LABOR SETTLEMENT REACHED
Last week, the Office Clerks Union (OCU) ratified its contract with the Harbor Employers Association at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, settling a labor dispute that resulted in an eight-day strike at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in November and December 2012. During the strike, NPPC and other groups representing U.S. producers, processors and exporters of livestock, poultry and products from those animals sent a letter to President Obama expressing concern over the strike and its impact on the U.S. economy. International trade is vital to the sustainability of American agriculture, particularly animal agriculture. In 2012, U.S. exports of pork and pork products totaled 2.26 million metric tons – $6.3 billion – representing about 27 percent of production and adding almost $56 to the value for each hog marketed.
SECOND AGRICULTURE WORKER IMMIGRATION HEARING HELD
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security Tuesday held a hearing titled “Agricultural Labor: From H-2A to a Workable Agricultural Guestworker Program.” This hearing – the second in a series of several hearings on immigration issues – examined some of the current temporary agricultural guest worker programs and looked for ways to create a viable guest worker program. Witnesses stressed five topics for immigration reform: border security, improvements to the E-verify system as an alternative to a national identity card, clarity in anti-discrimination laws, an occupational visa category that the agricultural industry can use that could be tied to local or regional employment and options to deal with the 11 million undocumented workers currently in the United States. The general consensus among U.S. agriculture is that the current H-2A temporary or seasonal agricultural workers visa program is too cumbersome, bureaucratic, expensive and litigious. National Chicken Council President Mike Brown testified on behalf of the Food Manufacturers Immigration Coalition, of which NPPC is a member. Click here to read Brown’s testimony.
NPPC ASSISTS IN FINALIZING INTERNATIONAL FOOD SAFETY STANDARD
As a member of the U.S. delegation, Laurie Hueneke, NPPC Director of International Trade Policy, Sanitary and Technical Issues, last week attended a meeting in Thailand to finalize a draft document on Principles and Guidelines of National Food Control Systems for the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS). CCFICS is a committee of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, established by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization and its World Health Organization to promote food safety and coordinate international food standards. NPPC has provided significant input to the draft standard over the past several years. The draft Principles and Guidelines of National Food Control Systems further support the concept of equivalence – a fundamental discipline in the WTO Sanitary-Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement – and provide guidelines for how competent authorities should establish food safety systems, as well as the role of the food industry in ensuring safe food for domestic and international consumers.
NPPC MEETS WITH BRAZILIAN GOVERNMENT, INDUSTRY OFFICIALS
NPPC Vice President and Counsel for International Affairs Nick Giordano traveled to Brazil last week to meet with U.S. and foreign government officials, producers and industry representatives to discuss various trade issues. In January 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved a number of facilities in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina as eligible to ship pork to the United States. In 2010, USDA recognized Santa Catarina as free of foot-and-mouth disease, clearing the way for processing plant approval. NPPC supports the principle of regionalization and does not object to the recognition of Santa Catarina as being free of foot-and-mouth disease and other swine diseases such as Classical Swine Fever. However, NPPC believes it is extremely important that the United States’ trade relationship with Brazil be a reciprocal one and that, like the United States, Brazil maintain sanitary and phytosanitary policies that are based on sound science and legitimate health-related concerns. NPPC continues to be concerned with and frustrated by Brazil’s unjustifiable trichinosis-related import restrictions on U.S. pork. Given the extremely low annual incidence of trichinosis – 1-in-300 million – in the United States and the very high level of biosecurity practiced by the U.S. pork industry, there is no legitimate science-based reason for this import restriction. NPPC is working to remove the restriction so that chilled pork can be shipped to Brazil without trichinae testing.
SENATE HOLDS HEARING ON CTFC PROGRESS
The Senate Agriculture Committee Wednesday held a hearing, “Oversight of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CTFC),” to examine the CFTC’s progress in implementing the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., announced that the committee is considering the reauthorization of the CFTC with the purpose of increasing oversight of the agency’s financial regulations and laying the foundation for a budget increase. The reauthorization process will give lawmakers an opportunity to consider changes to the statutory authorities and oversight of the CFTC. Stabenow said she and ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., will release a joint letter seeking public input by May 1 on issues such as commodity market oversight and the need for additional customer protections. Click here to read testimony and watch the hearing.
2013 PORK FORUM NEXT WEEK IN ORLANDO
The 2013 National Pork Industry Forum will be held March 7-9 at The Peabody Orlando Hotel in Orlando, Fla.
VILSACK TO TESTIFY TO HOUSE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE HEARING
The House Agriculture Committee next Tuesday will hold a hearing “To review the state of the rural economy.” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will testify.