For The Week Ending April 26, 2013
FEINSTEIN, SCHRADER REINTRODUCE EGG BILL
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Thursday reintroduced the “Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013,” the so-called Egg Bill, after unsuccessful attempts to attach their bills to last year’s Farm Bill. The bill seeks to put into federal law an agreement between the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers (UEP) to mandate federal standards for egg-laying hens. The legislation, strongly opposed by NPPC, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation, would set a dangerous precedent allowing Congress and federal bureaucrats to regulate on-farm animal production practices. Click here to read more on why NPPC opposes the Egg Bill.
AGRICULTURE COALITION BACKS BILLS TO CREATE NEW GUESTWORKER PROGRAM
The Food Manufacturers Immigration Coalition, of which NPPC is a member, is supporting legislation introduced today that would help establish a stable workforce to sustain the rural communities where farmers, ranchers and food manufacturers grow and process the food supply. The coalition is backing the “Agricultural Guestworker Act,” which is sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. The bill would replace the H-2A program with a sensible guestworker program, known as H-2C. It would modernize and streamline the existing agricultural guestworker program and would be administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The existing temporary programs for general labor skilled workers are for seasonal labor only. Under the “Agricultural Guestworker Act,” the H-2C program would offer workers and employers more choices in their employment arrangements, creating more flexibility and making it easier for workers to move freely throughout the marketplace to meet demands. The new program would support food manufacturers, cattle operations, dairies, hog and poultry farms and other year-round agricultural employers. Since not all agriculture jobs are the same or require the same level of skill and experience, the H-2C program would give employers the opportunity to invest their time in training workers for jobs by allowing them an initial stay of 36 months. Workers would then be required to leave for up to three months. After the period of leave, each H-2C visa holder would only be required to leave the country once every 18 months. This would provide farm labor stability and would encourage illegal farm workers to identify themselves and participate in the H-2C program. Testimony delivered in February on behalf of the Food Manufacturers Immigration Coalition, which outlines the group’s major themes for immigration reform, is available by clicking here.
SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE HOLDS IMMIGRATION HEARING
The Senate Judiciary Committee Monday held a hearing on “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” S.744, the proposal from the “gang of eight” senators. The hearing featured four panels, totaling 23 witnesses, with agricultural interests voiced by United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez and National Council of Farmer Co-operatives President Chuck Conner. The Agriculture Workforce Coalition said that if Congress does not pass immigration reform that provides agriculture with a sufficient labor supply, the United States will become more reliant on imported food and thousands of U.S. farms could go out of business, cutting farm income by as much as $9 billion a year. NPPC supports comprehensive immigration reform that secures national borders fairly and justly, provides a pathway to citizenship for the millions of immigrants already in the United States, creates new guestwork visas, requires employees to check the legal status of all employees against a strengthened E-verify database and gives employers access to a legal work force without placing undue burdens on businesses. NPPC will continue to work with Congress to make sure the U.S. pork industry has access to a viable workforce. Click here to watch the hearing and read testimony from Monday’s hearing.
ADMINISTRATION NOTIFIES CONGRESS OF INTENT TO INCLUDE JAPAN IN TPP
The Obama administration formally notified Congress this week of its intention to include Japan in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, a move hailed by NPPC. Notification begins a 90-day consultation period with Congress and stakeholders before negotiations with Japan can begin. 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, and, with the addition of Japan, the TPP countries account for nearly 40 percent of global economic output. Japan is the top value export market for U.S. pork, accounting for almost $2 billion in 2012 sales. Increased pork exports resulting from a TPP agreement would create more than 20,000 direct and indirect U.S. pork-related jobs, with the vast majority generated by Japan alone. Japan’s entry into TPP makes it the single most important trade negotiation ever for U.S. pork and many other U.S. agricultural products. Pending the successful completion of domestic procedures by each TPP country, Japan hopes to participate in negotiations in July. The Senate Finance Committee also held a hearing this week on export opportunities provided by a comprehensive TPP agreement. Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) barriers to U.S. agricultural exports were a key issue discussed at the hearing. NPPC is working to remove SPS barriers to U.S. pork products as part of negotiations.
SENATE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE HOLDS EPA BUDGET HEARING
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Wednesday held hearing to review the proposed EPA budget for fiscal 2014. Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., voiced concern with EPA’s ability to conduct aerial surveillance of agriculture operations. Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe said EPA is not currently conducting aerial surveillance but is in the process of looking at the notification it would be required to give farmers and feedlot owners before conducting flights. Perciasepe said taking photographs of livestock farms from an airplane is a legal and cost-effective way to identify water runoff contamination. Johanns said EPA “sounds like it’s a federal agency that’s out of control.”
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE HOLDS BUDGET HEARINGS
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies this week held a series of hearings on budget requests for agricultural agencies. The subcommittee Wednesday held a hearing on rural development programs, taking testimony from USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien, Acting Administrator for the Rural Utility Service John Padalino, Acting Administrator for the Rural Business-Cooperative Service Lillian Salerno, Administrator for the Rural Housing Service Tammye Trevino and USDA Budget Director Mike Young. Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., expressed concern that the budget request does not address the needs of rural America, citing dramatic cuts to successful programs such as the Single Family Direct Loans and Water and Waste Disposal grants. Aderholt also asked for a formal legislative proposal for the $55 million request for the new, unproved Rural Business and Cooperative Grant Program. The same day, the subcommittee held a hearing on USDA’s natural resources and environment mission areas, with testimony from USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Ann Mills, Acting Chief for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Jason Weller and USDA Budget Director Young. Aderholt said NRCS benefits all Americans but is usually not recognized. Aderholt expressed concern with NRCS program and financial management, citing a 2012 outside audit that uncovered deficiencies in NRCS’s financial statements. Miller said the administration requested $4 billion for NRCS conservation programs, including about $3 billion in mandatory funding and $808 million in discretionary funding. Weller said NRCS enacted a hiring freeze this year – expecting to save $33 million in fiscal 2013 – and saved $22.5 million in travel expenses by increasing the use of video conferencing. The subcommittee Thursday held a hearing on USDA’s domestic and foreign agricultural services. USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse, Administrator for the Farm Service Agency Juan Garcia, Administrator for the Foreign Agricultural Service Suzanne Heinen, Administrator for the Risk Management Agency Brandon Willis and USDA Budget Director Young testified. Aderholt acknowledged the success of U.S. trade, citing that U.S. exports have exceeded $478 billion over the last four years and will likely set a new record this year. Aderholt criticized USDA for not introducing new efforts for agriculture exports. USDA’s Economic Research Service estimates that for every $1 billion of agricultural exports, an estimated 6,800 jobs are supported and an additional $1.29 billion in economic activity is generated. The subcommittee Friday held a hearing on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with testimony from agency Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Norris Cochran and FDA Chief Financial Officer Jay Tyler. Aderholt criticized FDA of submitting a budget seemingly identical – and two months late – to last year’s that includes the extension funds programs FDA once described as one-time requests. Aderholt said the subcommittee has been presented with conflicting messages regarding FDA’s needs and priorities.
MEMBERS OF EU PARLIAMENT URGE TRADE TALKS WITH U.S.
Members of the European Union parliamentary international trade committee approved a resolution this week endorsing the negotiation mandate for the European Commission to begin talks with the United States on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA). The negotiation mandate still needs to be approved by the entire EU Parliament. NPPC supports the negotiation of an FTA with the EU, which represents a tremendous market opportunity for U.S. pork exports, with consumption totaling 20 million metric tons annually – the second largest market in the world for pork consumption. However, numerous barriers prevent the U.S. pork industry from exporting significant amounts of pork to the EU. Current U.S. pork exports to the EU amount to less than a quarter of 1 percent of total EU pork consumption. Market access barriers include multiple quotas with high in-quota duties, a ban on the use of ractopamine, mandatory trichinae mitigation, a prohibition on pathogen-reduction treatments and a costly plant approval system. Through NPPC’s leadership, pork producers rallied other agriculture groups to ensure that agriculture would be part of the TTIP negotiations. The United States and the EU are aiming to begin negotiations at the end of June.
FINAL TWO CANDIDATES SELECTED TO BE NEXT WTO DIRECTOR GENERAL
The field of candidates to be the next Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was narrowed to two individuals this week, diplomat Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo of Brazil and former Mexican Trade Minister Herminio Blanco. The two candidates have been selected from an original list of nine candidates after months of consultations among all 159 WTO members. Blanco served as chief representative for Mexico during the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations, and Azevêdo is the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the WTO. The third and final round of consultations for Director General will begin May 1 and continue through May 7.
NPPC FARM BILL TASK FORCE RECONVENES
With the House and Senate set to mark up a new five-year Farm Bill, the NPPC Farm Bill Task Force today reconvened to discuss provisions for the 2013 Farm Bill. The task force discussed, reaffirmed and made changes to NPPC’s policy requests for a five-year Farm Bill. NPPC will keep members updated on 2013 Farm Bill developments.
ANIMAL AGRICULTURE ALLIANCE SUMMIT NEXT WEEK
The 12th annual Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit, titled Activists at the Door: Protecting Animals, Farms, Food & Consumer Confidence, will be held in Arlington, Va., May 1-2. Click here to register.
SENATE TO BEGIN WORK ON 2013 FARM BILL IN MAY
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., this week said the Senate will start work on the 2013 Farm Bill next month. The Senate Agriculture Committee in May is expected to begin marking up a bill for the five-year blueprint for agricultural and food assistance programs. The 2008 Farm Bill expired last year when lawmakers failed to approval a final 2012 Farm Bill. The full Senate and the House Agriculture Committee approved bills, but the full House never took up the committee measure. The 2008 bill was extended for a year. Lawmakers in both houses are expected to look for significant cuts in farm spending.