For The Week Ending March 15, 2013


NPPC today welcomed Japan’s request to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations and urged the United States and other TPP countries to swiftly accept the Asian nation into the regional trade talks. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today announced his country’s intention to participate in the negotiations. The TPP is a regional trade negotiation that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which account for a combined 30 percent of global GDP. Japan already has free trade agreements with seven of the 11 TPP countries: Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Japan’s economy is second only to China’s in the region, and it is the fourth largest U.S. agricultural export market overall. U.S. food and agricultural exports to Japan in 2012 totaled $13.5 billion. Japan is the top value export market for U.S. pork accounting for almost $2 billion in 2012 sales.


USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Veterinary Services final rule on animal traceability took effect March 11. The rule is vital to the U.S. pork industry’s ability to more quickly control and eradicate foreign animal diseases and keep export markets open. Most meat-importing countries require such a system as a condition for importing meat, and the rule is an important tool in helping the United States meet its international obligations under the World Organization for Animal Health. More information regarding the ruling can be found here.


Agriculture Undersecretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen Wednesday told the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee that Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) meat inspectors across the country will be furloughed starting in July on the same day and that each inspector will be furloughed 11 days between July and Sept. 20. Hagen said FSIS decided to furlough all employees simultaneously because that would be the fairest option. If FSIS staggered furloughs and a solution were found after the furloughs began, she said, the meat, poultry and egg products industries in one part of the country would suffer economic problems while the others would not. The total FSIS budget cut will likely be $52.8 million, or 5 percent. Hagen said all 9,212 FSIS employees will be furloughed, including the 8,136 inspectors and other “front line” employees.


Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., Thursday introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) for the fourth time since 2007. This year, the bill explicitly names Cephalosporins as an eighth class of antibiotics that would be outlawed from non-therapeutic use in animals (previous PAMTA bills named only seven classes). The bill also clarifies what is considered non-therapeutic. Under PAMTA, farmers only would be allowed to use animal health products to treat diseases. NPPC, which strongly opposes the PAMTA bill, has already held three educational antibiotics briefings for Capitol Hill staff this year. Numerous risk assessments, including one conducted by FDA, have shown risk levels associated with antibiotic use in agriculture that are extremely low, and nationally recognized scientific studies have shown that the removal of important animal health products could actually increase food-safety risks.


USDA proposed a new rule for country-of-origin meat labeling in an effort to comply with a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that the U.S. Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling (MCOOL) law discriminates against Canadian and Mexican exports. Under the new rule, details on birth, production and slaughter would be provided on the label, such as “born, raised and slaughtered in the United States” or “born and raised in Canada and slaughtered in the United States.” In contrast, MCOOL allows meat to be labeled as “Product of the U.S.” or “Product of the U.S. and Canada.” NPPC is reviewing the proposed rule for its impact on U.S. pork producers. Last June, the WTO Appellate Body upheld an earlier panel ruling that MCOOL violates U.S. trade obligations under the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. A WTO arbitrator determined that the United States had until May 23, 2013, to achieve compliance with the WTO panel ruling. If it does not abide by the WTO ruling, the United States risks retaliation from Canada and Mexico, both of which filed complaints with the WTO over the U.S. labeling law. NPPC believes a solution can be found that satisfies U.S. WTO obligations, provides sufficient label information to consumers and does not cause economic disruptions in the pork industry. In 2012, Mexico and Canada were the second and fourth largest export markets by value for U.S. pork, with exports totaling $1.13 billion and $856 million, respectively. The proposed rule is open for public comment until April 11.


The Senate this week debated a Continuing Resolution (CR) to continue funding the federal government through Sept. 30, 2013. The current government spending bill expires March 27. A CR provides funding for government agencies at the same levels as the previous year. The House already has passed the CR, and the Senate is expected to continue consideration of the bill next week. An important provision being considered as an amendment, offered by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., would provide funding to USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service to avoid furloughs of federal meat inspectors and would allow Cabinet secretaries to deem some federal employees “essential,” moving money within accounts to keep them working. The amendment is co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Mike Enzi, Wyo., Deb Fischer, Neb., John Hoeven, N.D., Mike Johanns, Neb., Jim Risch, Idaho, and Roger Wicker, Miss.


The United States and Taiwan re-launched Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) negotiations this week, building on the framework for expanding trade and resolving trade disputes between the countries. The Taiwanese parliament last year voted to ease restrictions on U.S. beef imports from cattle produced with ractopamine but left the ban in place on pork produced with the same product. Ractopamine is a dietary additive that improves the feed efficiency, growth rate and lean carcass percentage of live hogs and cattle. It has been approved for use in hogs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and by the food-safety agencies in 25 other countries. Last year, the U.N.’s Codex Alimentarius, which sets international standards for food products, approved a maximum residue limit (MRL) for ractopamine, which U.S. pork meets. During the TIFA talks, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis urged that “Taiwan’s food safety measures – including those relating to meat exports – are based on science and consistent with international standards.” However, the Taiwanese government reaffirmed its position to keep in place the ban on U.S. pork produced with ractopamine. NPPC is working closely with the U.S. government to ensure Taiwan abides by WTO rules and lifts its ban on U.S. pork produced with ractopamine.


Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, best known for developing USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, Thursday announced her departure from USDA as second in command. Merrigan is a longtime advocate for organic and local food systems. She did not announce a date or future plans. In related news, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Tuesday appointed Anne MacMillan and Oscar Gonzales Jr. as deputy chiefs of staff. Carole Jett, who has been a deputy chief of staff, will leave USDA in early April. MacMillan, currently serving as a senior policy adviser within the Office of the Secretary, will oversee external affairs and USDA policy management. Gonzales, currently serving as deputy assistant secretary for administration, will handle operational matters within USDA. Jett has worked at USDA for 37 years.


NPPC Chief Veterinarian Liz Wagstrom Thursday testified in front of the New Jersey Agriculture and Natural Resources Assembly Committee against bill A3250, which would ban gestation stalls for all except up to 8 hours in a 24 hour period for veterinary care. This ban would not allow the use of stalls prior to confirmation of pregnancy. The bill, which has already passed in the New Jersey Senate, is supported by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals and the ASCPA.




The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee next Wednesday will consider the Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA). NPPC is very supportive of ADUFA because it lays forth a process that benefits pork producers and animal drug companies by collecting user fees from drug companies seeking approval on new drugs, and those user fees help to supplement FDA through the review process. Pork producers can then gain access to these important animal health products quicker.


The 2013 National Ag Day will be held March 19 in Washington, D.C. Among the many activities are an educational briefing, luncheon, panel discussion, reception and dinner at USDA. Newly-elected NPPC President Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, Minn., will be in town for the activities. Click here for more information.


The House Agriculture Committee next Wednesday will hold a markup on several bills dealing with financial risk management tools, including H.R.1003, which would make improvements to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s considerations of the costs and benefits of its regulations and orders.


Follow NPPC on Twitter and view NPPC’s Facebook page.