For The Week Ending May 10, 2013
‘EGG BILL’ WILL NOT BE INCLUDED IN SENATE FARM BILL
The “Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013,” the so-called Egg Bill, a measure NPPC has been actively opposing since its introduction in 2012, will not be considered during the Senate’s markup of the Farm Bill next week. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Agriculture Committee chairwoman, Thursday said she will not add the bill as an amendment to the Farm Bill. The legislation 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 egg production standards. The legislation, which also is opposed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation, would set a dangerous precedent for allowing Congress and federal bureaucrats to regulate all on-farm animal production practices. Click here to read more on why NPPC opposes the Egg Bill. It is still possible that other senators may offer the bill as an amendment to the Farm Bill. NPPC will keep its members informed on the progress of the 2013 Farm Bill.
SENATE PASSES ‘CLEAN’ ADUFA REAUTHORIZATION MEASURE
The Senate Wednesday passed the Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA) reauthorization – without amendments – by unanimous consent. NPPC strongly supported the “clean” reauthorization of ADUFA, which benefits pork producers and animal drug companies. It allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to collect from animal health companies user fees for conducting drug reviews and approvals. The user fees supplement FDA’s funding, allowing pork producers to gain access to important animal health products in a timely manner. The House Energy and Commerce Committee next Wednesday will consider ADUFA reauthorization. Click here to read NPPC’s letter in support of ADUFA reauthorization.
SENATE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE HEARS USDA BUDGET REQUEST
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Thursday held a hearing to review USDA’s budget request for fiscal 2014. Testimony from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and USDA Inspector General Phyllis Fong were given. Issues of importance included a proposal to shift food aid from U.S. commodity purchases to cash assistance funneled through the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Farmer Assurance Provision and the definition of “rural communities.” Shifting food aid would include shifting jurisdiction for the program to the Foreign Operations subcommittees of the Appropriations Committees. Chairman Mark Pryor, D-Ark., said the original goals of the food aid programs were to increase U.S. exports and feed the hungry; Vilsack said the United States doesn’t have the surpluses it did when the program was originally created, and U.S. export markets are now established. Vilsack said the change to cash assistance would save $500 million over 10 years, and 55 percent of the food would still be purchased in the United States. The Farmer Assurance Provision, according to Vilsack, is needless, of debatable legality and has made it problematic for USDA to develop guidelines and programs to allow coexistence of organic and conventional and biotech crops. The definition of “rural communities” was discussed when Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., questioned the judgment of a USDA report requesting a change in the definition of rural communities from 10,000 people to 50,000 people for purposes of eligibility for USDA rural development programs. Vilsack said 32,000 farm families grow half of the food in the United States and that, with rural populations declining, it is necessary to increase the population size for eligibility for the sake of obtaining resources for development programs. The USDA budget also includes a $20 million feral swine research project. Click here to read testimony and watch the hearing.
SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE BEGINS IMMIGRATION REFORM MARKUP
The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday began marking up S. 744, immigration reform legislation that seeks to establish a path for undocumented workers, including farm workers, to earn legal status in the United States. Lawmakers at the markup, the first of three sessions, concentrated on border security and amnesty amendments. S. 744 would create a new “blue card” program for skilled farm workers and revise the current agricultural worker visa program. 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 temporary work 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 stable and viable workforce.
SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT TALKS TRADE ON FIRST VISIT TO WASHINGTON
South Korean President Park Geun-hye this week visited Washington, D.C., to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-South Korean alliance. Park also met with President Obama to discuss a number of bilateral and regional issues, in particular, further strengthening the U.S.-Korea economic relationship. The two leaders discussed the importance of continuing to implement the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) that entered into force March 15, 2012. KORUS is estimated to substantially increase U.S. pork exports. According to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, the FTA with Korea when fully implemented will create 9,100 direct U.S. pork industry jobs, increase annual U.S. pork exports by $687 million and add $10 to the price producers receive for each hog. South Korea has also recently been encouraged by the United States to consider joining the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.
AG COALITION URGES WHITE HOUSE TO KEEP USTR OPERATING
A coalition of U.S. food and agricultural organizations led by NPPC expressed concern that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is considering closing the agency entirely for a number of normal working days over the coming months as a result of the sequester. In a letter signed by 37 organizations sent this week to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, the coalition said it is not in the best interest of the United States to close USTR “… when the rest of the world is engaged in trade negotiations, activities at the World Trade Organization and elsewhere, or potentially adopting measures that are adverse to our trade interests.” The coalition urged that a different approach be taken to avert a total shutdown of USTR or risk negatively affecting the over $141 billion in annual U.S. agricultural exports.
WTO DELEGATION RECOMMENDS BRAZILIAN TO BE NEXT WTO DIRECTOR-GENERAL
The third and final round of consultations for Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was held May 1 through May 7. At an informal meeting of the Heads of Delegation on May 8, the three facilitators in the process of selecting the next Director-General recommended Ambassador Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo of Brazil as the candidate who can gain consensus approval of WTO members. The facilitators suggested that members approve Azevêdo as Director-General at the General Council meeting May 14. He has been selected from an original list of nine candidates after months of consultations among all 159 WTO members. Azevêdo currently is the Permanent Representative of Brazil to the WTO.
SENATE, HOUSE SCHEDULED TO BEGIN MARKUP OF 2013 FARM BILL NEXT WEEK
The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to begin marking up the 2013 Farm Bill next Tuesday. The House Agriculture Committee will begin markup next Wednesday. The 2008 Farm Bill expired last year when lawmakers failed to approve 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 and will expire Sept. 30. Lawmakers in both houses are expected to look for significant cuts in farm spending.
HOUSE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE TO HOLD CFTC MARKET PERSPECTIVES HEARING
The House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday, May 21 will hold a hearing on the future of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE COMMITTEE TO CONSIDER ADUFA
The House Energy and Commerce Committee next Wednesday will consider Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA) reauthorization.
HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS SUBCOMMITTEE TO HOLD HEARING ON SMALL BUSINESS
The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures next Wednesday will hold a hearing focused on the Ways and Means small business discussion draft released on March 12. The Subcommittee intends to hear comments and analysis relating to the basic architecture of the draft proposals. NPPC signed onto a letter and will continue to monitor developments.