For The Week Ending July 12, 2013
HOUSE APPROVES 2013 FARM BILL
The House yesterday approved on a 216-208 vote the “Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013,” or Farm Bill. NPPC supported the legislation, which reauthorizes farm programs but does not address the nutrition title – federal food-assistance programs – since it was split off because of disagreement over the level of funding cuts. It also included several amendments that were adopted on the House floor during its first consideration June 20. That bill was defeated then on a 195-234 vote. [As an aside, NPPC and 26 of its state affiliates signed onto a July 2 letter, urging the House leadership to reconsider the Farm Bill after its June 20 defeat. Prior to being sent, the letter was changed to include a statement of opposition if the nutrition title were split from the bill, but NPPC and its affiliates were not made aware of that change and would not have signed onto the letter had they known about it. NPPC in a July 11 statement reiterated its support for the House’s five-year Farm Bill, which is critical to the vitality of rural America.] Among the provisions beneficial to the U.S. pork industry included in the approved bill are ones that: prohibit states from dictating production restrictions on agricultural goods sold within their own borders but produced in other states; prevent the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) from doing further work on the so-called GIPSA Rule related to livestock contracts; reauthorize export promotion programs; authorize a trichinae surveillance program; and require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish an Undersecretary for Trade and to study a catastrophic event insurance program for pork producers. 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 House bill now will need to be reconciled with the Senate-passed Farm Bill, which includes a nutrition title. The current Farm Bill is set to expire at the end of September.
SENATE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE HOLDS SMITHFIELD ACQUISITION HEARING
The Senate Agriculture Committee Wednesday held a hearing on the pending purchase by the Chinese firm Shuanghai International of Smithfield Foods, considering the long-term impacts on U.S. pork producers, consumer prices, food safety and food security and the Chinese government’s influence over Shuanghai International. In May, Shuanghui International offered to purchase Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer, for $4.7 billion. Witnesses included Dartmouth College Associate Dean for Faculty Matthew Slaughter, West Virginia University Robbins Center for Global Business and Strategy professor and director Dr. Usha Haley, U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commissioner Daniel Slane and Smithfield Foods President and CEO Larry Pope. The deal is currently under review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Click here to watch the hearing and read testimonies.
NPPC, FARM BUREAU STOP EPA RELEASE OF PERSONAL FARM INFORMATION
Recent efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to release sensitive personal and private farm information to activist groups was halted this week as a result of a lawsuit filed by NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation. The suit, filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, sought an emergency injunction to prevent EPA from releasing for a third time this year data on livestock producers in 29 states as well as information on producers in an additional six states (Minnesota, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma and Washington) to five activist groups that filed Freedom of Information Act requests. In early February, EPA’s Office of Water released raw data from farms to several environmental groups. After objections from NPPC and other farm organizations, EPA requested that the environmental groups return the data but reissued it after redacting some of the information. The reissued data still contained some personal information on farmers. EPA then informed NPPC in late June of its intent to again release the information, which includes names, addresses and GPS coordinates of farms and personal contact information. In response to the lawsuit, EPA Wednesday informed the court it will deny the five recent and all future requests for the information until the conclusion of litigation – expected late next year – which will determine which information is and is not protected. EPA has until Sept. 3 to respond to the lawsuit, after which the court will set a schedule for undertaking discovery, filing legal briefs and setting oral arguments.
NEW DOT TRANSPORTATION RULE WAIVED FOR DRIVERS HAULING LIVESTOCK
In a major victory for America’s hog, cattle and poultry farmers, the U.S. Department of Transportation last week informed NPPC that it will grant a 90-day waiver of a new hours-of-service rule for drivers transporting livestock and poultry. Official notice of the decision was published July 11 in the Federal Register. Effective July 1, the rule from DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute rest break if more than 8 hours have passed since beginning service. For drivers hauling livestock, the hours of service would include time loading and unloading animals. NPPC, along with 13 other livestock, poultry and food organizations, in a June 19 letter petitioned the FMCSA for the 90-day waiver from complying with the 30-minute rest break requirement in the new rule. The groups also requested a two-year exemption from the rest break requirement, which the agency agreed to consider. The organizations said the regulation would “cause livestock producers and their drivers irreparable harm, will place the health and welfare of the livestock in their care at risk and will provide no apparent increased benefit to public safety (and will likely decrease public safety) while forcing the livestock industry and [its] drivers to choose between the humane handling of animals or complying with a FMCSA regulation requiring a 30-minute rest break.” The groups also pointed out that the livestock and poultry industries have programs – developed and offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture – that educate drivers on transportation safety and animal welfare. Click here to read the Federal Register notice.
MEAT ORGANIZATIONS CHALLENGE NEW COUNTRY-OF-ORIGIN LABELING RULE
The American Meat Institute (AMI) – along with seven other U.S. and Canadian meat and livestock organizations, including NPPC – Tuesday filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to prevent enactment of a new mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rule finalized by USDA in May. The rule not only requires labeling of where the animal was born but also where the animal was raised and slaughtered. In their complaint, the organizations explain that the final rule is unconstitutional by compelling speech in the form of expensive and exhaustive labels on meat products that do not directly advance a government interest, such as preventing the spread of a contagious disease. Additional labeling would present no food safety or public health benefit, yet inflict costs the government modestly estimates at $192 million, the groups said. The organizations also believe the new rule violates the Agriculture Marketing Act because it exceeds the authority granted to USDA in the 2008 Farm Bill. In addition to AMI and NPPC, plaintiffs include the American Association of Meat Processors, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, North American Meat Association and Southwest Meat Association. Click here to read more.
FREE TRADE NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE EU BEGIN
The United States and the European Union (EU) this week began comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). 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 28-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. NPPC is working with other U.S. food and agriculture groups to make sure that the sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures are addressed. NPPC also this week reiterated its position in an advertisement that ran on the back page of the political news publication Roll Call that tariffs and all other barriers on U.S. agricultural products must be eliminated through TTIP negotiations. Click here to see NPPC’s ad.
NPPC LEADING DEFENSE AGAINST CHILEAN SAFEGUARD ON FROZEN PORK IMPORTS
Chile initiated a safeguard investigation in May on all imported frozen pork, including imports from the United States. Under international trade rules, safeguard measures are temporary emergency actions, such as duty increases, taken against imported products that have caused or threaten to cause serious injury to the importing country’s domestic industry. The Chilean Pork Producers Association alleges that imports have resulted in losses to its industry. A Chilean commission is conducting a 90-day investigation to determine whether safeguard measures should be imposed and, if so, at what rate. All interested parties have an opportunity to present written evidence and arguments and to appear at a hearing on the investigation. NPPC believes that the charges of price distortion are unfounded. While U.S. exports have grown, they remain small and stable in relation to pork consumption and pork production in Chile. In fact, while Chilean pork producers continue to account for more than 95 percent of domestic consumption, Chilean producers have significantly increased their sales in export markets. NPPC is working with its U.S. and Chilean counsel to prepare a strong defense.
NPPC MEETS WITH TRADE OFFICIALS IN COLOMBIA
NPPC Vice President and Counsel for International Affairs Nick Giordano traveled to Colombia last week to meet with government officials and private-sector representatives to discuss issues of mutual interest to the trade relationship between Colombia and the United States. NPPC has worked closely with U.S. and Colombian officials on the removal of unscientific and burdensome trichinae mitigation measures that Colombia requires the U.S. pork industry to meet. Colombia has finalized the regulation to remove the requirement. NPPC urges the expeditious final approval of the removal of Colombia’s trichinae mitigation measures. The removal of the trichinae mitigation requirement and the ability to ship fresh/chilled pork will boost U.S. pork exports. According to Dr. Ray Gamble, president ex-officio of the International Commission on Trichinellosis, the odds of trichinae in the U.S. commercial pork supply is 1-in-300 million.
TPP NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE NEXT WEEK IN MALAYSIA
The 18th round of Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations will be held in Malaysia July 15-25. The last day of negotiations will focus on Japan as it is set to become the 12th member of the Asia-Pacific region free trade talks.