For The Week Ending June 28, 2013
FUTURE OF HOUSE FARM BILL UNCERTAIN
House lawmakers this week have been tossing around potential ideas for getting a Farm Bill passed. Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., says he is in “nonstop discussions” with Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Republican leadership about next steps. Agriculture Committee member Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., along with Reps. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, and Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, Wednesday introduced H.R. 2498, the exact text of the Senate-passed Farm Bill. There is also a possibility of returning to the House Rules Committee to ask that the House Agriculture Committee’s version be brought back to the floor with a rule restricting the number of controversial amendments. There also has been talk of splitting the farm bill in two: agriculture programs and nutrition programs. The current Farm Bill is set to expire at the end of September.
NEW YORK, NEW JERSEY SIDE WITH PORK PRODUCERS’ RIGHT TO CHOOSE
The New York Legislature and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie this week refused to approve measures banning the use of gestation stalls for pregnant sows. NPPC hailed them for protecting the farmers in their respective states. The measures could have had devastating effects on local sustainable agriculture by forcing farmers to abandon an animal housing system approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. Both measures were pushed by the Humane Society of the United States and other radical animal-rights groups, which also recently suffered defeats on similar bans in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.
CONGRESS CONTINUES WORK ON IMMIGRATION REFORM
The Senate this week passed immigration reform legislation, S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013,” on a 68-32 vote. Dozens of amendments were filed, including one sponsored by Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., that expands security measures at the U.S.-Mexican border. An amendment that was not considered was one sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, that would have provided more protections for employers when using the E-Verify federal work authorization system to determine the immigration status of potential employees. The amendment was strongly supported by the livestock and meat industries. The House Judiciary Committee Wednesday marked up and approved H.R. 1772, the “Legal Workforce Act,” which would require the use of the E-Verify system by all employers, including farm owners. Under the bill, employers with workers performing “agricultural labor or services” would have to comply within two years. Similar legislation in the Senate would give farmers five years to comply. NPPC supports the requirement of employers to check the legal status of all employees against the E-Verify database.
HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE HOLDS RENEWABLE FUELS STANDARD HEARING
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power Wednesday held a hearing on “Overview of the Renewable Fuel Standard: Government Perspectives,” with testimony from top-level federal stakeholders, including U.S. Energy Administration Administrator Adam Sieminksi, USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality Christopher Grundler. The hearing complimented the committee’s Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) white papers requesting industry input on the current RFS. NPPC submitted comments in May detailing its experience with EPA in the agency’s decision last fall on a short-term waiver of the RFS and in competing in tight markets for corn where growth in demand far outstripped growth in supply. Click here to watch the hearing and read testimony.
CANADA TO INITIATE WTO COMPLIANCE REVIEW OF USDA COOL RULE
Canada this week announced it is preparing to initiate World Trade Organization compliance proceedings to challenge USDA’s new Country-Of-Origin-Labeling (COOL) rule. Following the May 23 release of USDA’s final COOL rule, Canada and Mexico said they would consider challenging the new rule on the grounds that, like its predecessor, it discriminates against meat products derived from livestock from their respective countries and, therefore, violates WTO international trade obligations. Based on average compliance reviews, the WTO likely would issue a decision on Canada’s challenge some time in 2014. If the WTO determines the COOL rule does not comply with WTO rules, the United States risks retaliation from Canada and Mexico in the form of increased tariffs on U.S. agricultural and manufactured goods. Under the new COOL rule, details on birth, production and slaughter of livestock, such as “born, raised and slaughtered in the United States” or “born and raised in Canada and slaughtered in the United States,” must be provided on the product label. 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.
NPPC SUPPORTS TRADE PROMOTION AUTHORITY
United States Trade Representation Michael Froman said this week that the Obama administration is ready to engage Congress on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). TPA, also known as fast-track, allows the president to negotiate trade deals based on strategic goals and objectives outlined in the legislation, with ongoing congressional oversight. Congress may approve or disapprove resulting trade agreements but may not amend them. It gives trading partners confidence that the agreements negotiated with the United States will not be changed by lawmakers. The most recent TPA expired in 2007. NPPC strongly supports TPA legislation that encompasses a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and all other trade agreements that might be negotiated over the life of the bill. Exports are increasingly important to the U.S. pork industry and add significantly to the bottom line of U.S. pork producers.
MEXICO ANNOUNCES RESTRICTIONS ON U.S. LIVE PIG IMPORTS
Mexico this week announced it will impose restrictions on the importation of live pigs from the United States in response to the recent emergence of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) in U.S. swine. Under the new restrictions, imports of live pigs from the United States are prohibited without a case-by-case review and permit from the Mexican authorities, and pigs imported from the United States before May 17, 2013, will be quarantined and subjected to enhanced surveillance measures. Epidemiological surveillance also will be enhanced in areas with swine production facilities to identify any increase in piglet mortality. Mexico was the largest destination for U.S. live pigs last year, totaling 26,793 animals, primarily breeding swine, valued at $6.4 million. NPPC is not aware of any rejections of live U.S. pigs. The restrictions do not include pork or pork products since PEDV is not a food safety concern, is not a zoonotic disease and does not affect people.
SENATE CONFIRMS PRITZKER AS SECRETARY OF COMMERCE
The U.S. Senate this week confirmed Penny Pritzker, chairman and CEO of the investment firm PSP Capital Partners, as the next Commerce secretary. The Department of Commerce’s responsibilities include facilitating global trade and improving market access for U.S. goods and services. NPPC works with Commerce to expand and preserve market access opportunities for U.S. pork. Trade is vital to the U.S. pork industry. 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.
OBAMA TRAVELS TO AFRICA
President Obama departed Thursday for a six-day trip to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania to meet with leaders from government, business and civil society to discuss a number of issues, including furthering bilateral economic ties and trade. In 2012, the United States exported 2,156 metric tons of pork products to Sub-Saharan Africa, valued at approximately $5.4 million. Although U.S. pork exports to Africa are limited, NPPC is pursuing opportunities for expanded growth, especially in South Africa. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently renegotiating the U.S. pork export certificate with South Africa following the imposition of porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) requirements on U.S. pork that created a de facto ban on June 1. PRRS is not a food-safety issue, and there is negligible risk of PRRS transmission from the legal importation of pork from countries with the disease. Other South African barriers to U.S. pork exports include very strict and unscientific time/temperature requirements because of concerns about trichinae and pseudorabies. NPPC will continue to work toward removing all barriers to trade in South Africa and encourage all countries to adopt science-based standards. Obama is accompanied by U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman.
NPPC PARTICIPATES IN ISO WORKING GROUP ON ANIMAL WELFARE
NPPC this week participated in a meeting of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) working group on animal welfare for food-producing animals. ISO, a private for-profit organization, launched the working group last year in conjunction with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to create a technical specification, a tool for private companies to facilitate animal welfare short of a full international standard. NPPC initially opposed the creation of the working group and is increasingly concerned about the process to develop a private international animal welfare technical specification. However, NPPC remains actively engaged to ensure that the document produced by the working group does not go beyond ISO’s scope. Any work that moves forward must not re-create animal welfare standards and must be limited to a simple management system to help countries implement OIE animal welfare standards since those standards already are developed. New international standards that are not science-based and that exceed the recommendations of the OIE would be onerous for producers. At the meeting there was little consensus from stakeholders in attendance on the draft outline of the technical specification. The ISO working group and the ISO member countries are expected to vote on a proposal for new work in July.
SWINE VETERINARIANS APPOINTED TO ANIMAL HEALTH COMMITTEE
NPPC Chief Veterinarian Liz Wagstrom and Wayne Freese, an alumnus of NPPC’s Swine Veterinarian Public Policy Advocacy Program, were recently appointed to the Agriculture Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health. The committee advises the secretary on matters of animal and public health, conservation of natural resources and the stability of livestock economies. The committee includes livestock producers, small and minority farmers and state and tribal animal health officials.
HOUSE TO MOVE FORWARD WITH AGRICULTURE FUNDING BILL; OBAMA THREATENS VETO
The House likely will consider its fiscal 2014 agriculture appropriations bill during the week of July 8. The Obama administration has issued a veto threat of the bill.
CONGRESS TO TAKE INDEPENDENCE DAY RECESS
With Congress on recess next week for Independence Day, the next edition of Capital Update will be issued July 12.