For The Week Ending July 19, 2013
FARM BILL MOVES CLOSER TO CONFERENCE
The House Tuesday sent H.R. 2642, the “Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management (FARRM) Act of 2013,” to the Senate, which took up the bill and substituted it with the Senate-passed version (which includes the nutrition title dropped by the House bill). The Senate Thursday accepted a unanimous consent resolution to send the Farm Bill back to the House. This procedural move now allows the House and Senate leaders to hold a conference to work out the differences between the two versions. The House and Senate are already engaged in discussions, but timing of a formal Farm Bill conference is unknown. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Thursday announced she would select 12 members from the agriculture panel to be conferees – five Republicans and seven Democrats. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., has yet to announce his number of conferees. The current Farm Bill is set to expire at the end of September.
SENATE CONFIRMS NEW EPA ADMINISTRATOR, LABOR SECRETARY
The Senate Thursday confirmed the nomination of Gina McCarthy to serve as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator. McCarthy has served as assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation for the past four years and replaces former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. McCarthy has shown genuine interest in learning about the challenges faced by the U.S. pork industry, according to NPPC. NPPC President Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, Minn., wrote an op-ed in February in support of her nomination. In related news, the Senate Thursday confirmed the nomination of Thomas Perez as labor secretary. Perez previously served as assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division; he replaces Hilda Solis.
HEARING ON OBAMA’S TRADE POLICY AGENDA HELD
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman testified this week at a hearing on President Obama’s trade policy agenda, stating that he believes “the President has laid out one of the most ambitious trade agendas ever,” including advancing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations toward conclusion and the recent start of free trade negotiations with the European Union. Froman also reiterated the commitment by the administration to work with 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. Reps. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Adrian Smith, R-Neb., pressed Froman on the importance of enforceable sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) commitments as part of TPP and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union. Smith called Froman’s attention to the fact that “there is more U.S. pork sent to a Central American country of 7.7 million population [Honduras] compared to the 28 European countries that make up 500 million population.” Froman said that the United States is working on including a dispute settlement mechanism and other SPS-plus provisions in its negotiations with the EU.
NPPC RENEWS CALLS FOR TAIWAN TO DROP BAN ON U.S. PORK
NPPC reiterated its position this week that Taiwan drop its ban on U.S. pork produced with ractopamine in an advertisement that ran on the back page of the political news publication Roll Call. The call comes a year after the Taiwanese parliament voted to ease restrictions on U.S. beef imports from cattle produced with ractopamine but left the ban in place on pork produced with the same product. Ractopamine is a feed ingredient that improves the feed efficiency, growth rate and lean carcass percentage of live hogs and cattle. It has been approved for use in hogs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and by the food-safety agencies in 25 other countries. Last year, the U.N.’s Codex Alimentarius, which sets international standards for food safety, approved a maximum residue limit (MRL) for ractopamine, which U.S. pork meets. In 2012, the U.S. exported 18,128 metric tons of pork and pork products to Taiwan, valued at $41 million. According to analysis by Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, the quantity and value exported to Taiwan is far below the potential that the United States could export if the ractopamine ban were removed. NPPC is working closely with the U.S. government to ensure Taiwan abides by World Trade Organization rules on trade and lifts without further delay its ban on U.S. pork produced with ractopamine. Click here to see NPPC’s ad.
AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE TAKES UP USDA NOMINATIONS
The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry next Tuesday will consider the nominations of Krysta Harden to be Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Robert Bonnie to be Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment. Harden currently is chief of staff for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and previously served as Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations at USDA. Before joining the agency, Harden was CEO of the National Association of Conservation Districts, and she spent 12 years on Capitol Hill as farm hand and chief of staff for former Rep. Charles Hatcher, D-Ga. Bonnie now serves as USDA senior adviser to the Secretary for Environment and Climate. Before joining USDA in April 2009, he was vice president for land conservation and wildlife at the Environmental Defense Fund. NPPC has expressed support for both nominees in a letter.
HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE SUBCOMMITTEE TO HOLD RFS HEARING
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power next Tuesday and Wednesday will hold a hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS), which annually requires a certain amount of ethanol to be blended into gasoline. Click here for a list of witnesses.
HOUSE AGRICULTURE SUBCOMMITTEES TO HOLD CTFC HEARINGS
The House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management next Tuesday will hold a hearing titled, “The Future of the CFTC: Commission Perspectives.” Click here for a list of witnesses. The Subcommittee next Wednesday will hold a hearing titled, “The Future of the CFTC: End-User Perspectives.” Click here for a list of witnesses.