For The Week Ending June 21, 2013
HOUSE FARM BILL DEFEATED
The House Thursday failed to approve the “Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013” (H.R. 1947). The bill failed on a 195-234 vote. The measure did not include the “Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments,” or Egg Bill, pushed by the Humane Society of the United States and strongly opposed by NPPC. The bill did include several provisions backed by NPPC, including an amendment sponsored by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, that prohibits states from dictating production restrictions on agricultural goods sold within their own borders but produced in other states and one sponsored by Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, to prevent the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) from doing further work on the so-called GIPSA Rule related to livestock contracts. NPPC expressed strong disappoint with the defeat of the Farm Bill and urged the House leadership to craft a bill that benefits U.S. agriculture and to approve it before Sept. 30, when the current Farm Bill expires. NPPC supports a five-year Farm Bill that strengthens the U.S. pork industry’s competitiveness, funds operational costs for a comprehensive surveillance system and robust research, retains funding for agricultural trade promotion and provides an economic safety net for farmers. The House leadership is likely to meet early next week to discuss next steps. NPPC will keep its members updated on Farm Bill developments.
PRESIDENT OBAMA ANNOUNCES LAUNCH OF FREE TRADE NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE EU
President Obama, together with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, this week announced that the United States will begin comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with the European Union (EU) on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The initial talks will take place in Washington, D.C., the week of July 8. 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; in fact, last year the United States exported more pork to Honduras than to the 27-member European Union. 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. NPPC has also led the agriculture coalition to call for sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures that are based on scientific risk assessments and enforceable SPS provisions.
SENATE CONFIRMS MICHAEL FROMAN AS U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE
The Senate this week confirmed the nomination of Michael Froman, current Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs, as U.S. Trade Representative. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is responsible for developing U.S. international trade policy, overseeing free trade negotiations and enforcing existing agreements. The head of USTR, the U.S. Trade Representative, is a member of the president’s cabinet and serves as the president’s chief trade adviser, spokesperson on trade issues and negotiator. NPPC works closely with USTR to expand and preserve market access opportunities for U.S. pork. Among its top priorities, USTR is negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership with countries in the Asia-Pacific region and will begin trade negotiations with the European Union in July. NPPC has worked closely with Froman in his role as deputy national security adviser and looks forward to working with him in his role as U.S. trade representative.
SENATE APPROVES FISCAL 2014 AGRICULTURE APPROPRIATIONS BILL
The Senate Committee on Appropriations Thursday approved the fiscal 2014 Agricultural Appropriations Bill. The funding measure contains $20.93 billion – $420 million above the fiscal 2013 level – for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with $2.552 billion for FDA – $96 million above the fiscal 2013 level – and $1.02 billion for the Food Safety and Inspection Service – $7 million below the fiscal 2013 level. Click here for more detailed funding information.
HOUSE COMMITTEE APPROVES AGRICULTURAL WORKER VISA BILL
The House Judiciary Committee Wednesday approved the “Agricultural Guestworker ‘AG’ Act” on a 20-16 vote. The bill, sponsored by committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., replaces the current H-2A temporary or seasonal agricultural worker visa program with a new H-2C program. The bill would allow a maximum of 500,000 temporary agricultural laborers into the United States annually, and the visa would allow workers to stay in the country for a maximum of 18 months. (The current visa program allows a maximum of one year.) The program would induce workers to honor the visa expiration after 18 months by holding 10 percent of their wages, which can be claimed when they return to their home countries. The bill is not designed to create permanent legal status. NPPC supports the bill and will continue to work with Congress to make sure the U.S. pork industry has access to a stable and viable workforce.
USDA APHIS APPOINTS NEW ADMINISTRATOR
USDA Tuesday appointed Kevin Shea as administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Shea has held the position of acting administrator since June 2012. Shea also serves on the Agriculture secretary’s Executive Resources Board and Management Council. He served as associate administrator beginning in 2004. From 2000 to 2004, Shea served as deputy administrator for policy and program development and from 1992 to 2000 as APHIS’ director of budget and accounting. While with the agency, Shea has also worked as a budget analyst, chief of the program analysis branch and chief of the policy analysis and development staff. Before joining USDA, he practiced law in Baltimore, Md.
ACTION ON IMMIGRATION REFORM TO CONTINUE
The Senate next week will continue debate on immigration reform.