For The Week Ending July 26, 2013
BILL INTRODUCED TO PROTECT FARMERS’ PERSONAL INFORMATION
Driven by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) release of personal and private data on thousands of livestock and poultry farmers to activist groups, Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., Tuesday introduced the “Farmer Identity Protection Act” (S. 1343), which would restrict the EPA from disclosing such records again. The legislation would allow EPA to provide data to outside parties only in aggregate or with a farmer’s approval. It would allow EPA to release farm information only when all personally identifiable information is removed. A portion of the information EPA freely distributed earlier this year to three environmental groups included names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the farmers and ranchers, their spouses and farm employees. The legislation would allow EPA to release farm information only when all personally identifiable information is removed. NPPC, along with the American Farm Bureau Federation, filed a lawsuit against EPA July 5, 2013, to prevent the agency from releasing information to additional groups.
LIVESTOCK, POULTRY GROUPS ASK FOR INJUNCTION AGAINST NEW LABELING RULE
NPPC and eight other organizations representing the U.S., Canadian and Mexican meat and livestock industries Thursday asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to grant a preliminary injunction to block implementation of a mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rule finalized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in May. In early July, the groups, which also include the American Association of Meat Processors, American Meat Institute, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Pork Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, North American Meat Association, Southwest Meat Association and Mexico’s National Confederation of Livestock Organizations, filed a lawsuit against USDA over the COOL rule. In their injunction request, the groups said they had a high likelihood of success in their lawsuit and that enforcement of the new COOL rule would cause them irreparable harm and have severe economic impacts that are not in the public interest. USDA proposed the new COOL rule in March after a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel in 2011 ruled in response to a complaint by Canada and Mexico that the original U.S. country-of-origin labeling requirements violated WTO obligations. Despite that ruling, USDA made the new COOL requirements even more complex and discriminatory against foreign meat and livestock. Canada and Mexico have made clear that the new rule does nothing to ease the concerns that prompted their original complaint. Click here to read the complaint.
HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE SUBCOMMITTEE HOLD RFS HEARING
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power Tuesday and Wednesday held a hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS), which annually requires a certain amount of ethanol to be blended into gasoline. The two-day hearing garnered stakeholder perspectives and featured Wednesday testimonies from National Corn Growers Association President Pam Johnson, National Chicken Council Senior Vice President Bill Roenigk, Wen-Gap CEO Ed Anderson on behalf of the National Council of Chain Restaurants, Environmental Working Group Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Faber and Purdue University professor of agricultural economics Chris Hurt. Anderson estimated the RFS costs for restaurant owners at up to $30,000 annually per restaurant. Hurt said the RFS is one of the reasons for the rise in food prices and, although the RFS has positive affects for grain producers and land owners, livestock producers must eat the cost because they cannot pass it on. Livestock producers are faced with large herd losses and less food available for consumers. Click here to watch the hearing and read testimonies.
HOUSE AGRICULTURE SUBCOMMITTEES HOLD CFTC HEARINGS
The House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Tuesday held a hearing on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), a continuation of the process of gathering information and perspectives on the future of the CFTC prior to crafting reauthorization legislation. The statutory authorization expires Sept. 30. CFTC Commissioners Scott O’Malia and Mark Wetjen testified before the subcommittee. Click here to watch the hearing and read testimonies. The subcommittee Wednesday held a hearing to hear the perspectives of CFTC customers. Witnesses, including representatives from the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Commodity Markets Council, Edison Electric Institute, Southwest Airlines, American Gas Association and the Commodity Markets Oversight Coalition, testified on how to improve the operations and regulations of the CFTC. Since the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, end-user groups have been concerned that the CFTC is overreaching in its rulemaking and have warned it would eventually lead to higher prices for consumers. Click here to watch the hearing and read testimonies.
TPP NEGOTIATIONS HELP IN MALAYSIA
The 18th round of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations concluded this week in Malaysia. Negotiators made progress on issues, including market access and rules of origin, and also developed plans for completing work on each of TPP’s 29 chapters. Negotiations were marked by Japan’s official entry into talks on Tuesday. With the addition of Japan, the TPP countries account for nearly 40 percent of global economic output. Japan’s inclusion in TPP makes it the single most important trade negotiation ever for the U.S. pork industry and many other U.S. agriculture sectors, according to NPPC, which strongly support the regional trade talks. Japan is the top value export market for U.S. pork, accounting for almost $2 billion in 2012 sales. After Japan, Vietnam – with domestic pork consumption of 2 million metric tons per year – offers the greatest potential for expanded U.S. pork exports. According to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, increased pork exports resulting from a TPP agreement would create more than 20,000 direct and indirect U.S. pork-related jobs. The TPP is a comprehensive regional trade negotiation that currently includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The next round of negotiations will be held in Brunei from August 22-30.
CFTC AGRICULTURE ADVISORY COMMITTEE RECONVENES
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Thursday reconvened its Agriculture Advisory Committee (AAC), on which NPPC serves as a member, after a nearly two-year hiatus to discuss issues of importance to the agricultural sector. Topics included CFTC rulemaking on customer protection after the collapse of MF Global and Perigrine Financial, rulemaking on audio recordings of commodity trades, the newly created Renewable Identification Number (RIN) trading market and the implementation of the Dodd- Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. NPPC values the AAC because agricultural customers have unique concerns related to futures markets – much different from the concerns of Wall Street. A recurring theme throughout the discussion was that additional regulation to protect customer funds – including requiring customers to provide excess margin funds to the futures commission merchants to cover margin calls – could potentially put the customer at greater risk should future criminal activity occur (as in the case of MF Global and Perigrine Financial). The AAC members explained many of the unique challenges they face in the agricultural sector and urged the CFTC to continue discussions with the AAC to ensure that future rulemakings are not overly burdensome on the agricultural sector. This is becoming increasingly important with the addition of financial swaps to the CFTC’s purview and with agricultural futures becoming a smaller percentage of the commission’s overall charge.
SENATE CONFIRMS HARDEN, BONNIE TO USDA POSTS
The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Tuesday confirmed Krysta Harden to be deputy secretary of agriculture and Robert Bonnie to be senior adviser for environment and climate. 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. Harden will succeed Kathleen Merrigan in the second-highest post at USDA. 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. Bonnie will succeed Harris Sherman. NPPC expressed support for both nominees in a letter.
WAGSTROM APPOINTED TO AVMA COUNCIL
NPPC staff veterinarian Dr. Liz Wagstrom has been appointed as an at-large representative to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine. The CPHRVM recommends and encourages programs designed to prevent, control and eradicate animal diseases and studies problems of zoonotic diseases and of food-animal production, processing and distribution. Wagstrom will serve on the council until August 2016.
HOUSE TO TAKE UP REINS ACT
The House next week will consider H.R. 367, the Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which requires Congressional approval of regulations that cost more than $100 million. NPPC supports this bill.
SENATE TO POSSIBLY CONFIRM HARDEN, BONNIE
The Senate next week is likely to hold a confirmation vote on Krysta Harden to be USDA deputy secretary of agriculture and Robert Bonnie to be USDA senior adviser for environment and climate.
FARM BILL NUTRITION TITLE UNCLEAR
The House will continue to work on crafting an agreement on the nutrition title – also known as food stamps – of the Farm Bill but is not expected to come up for a vote prior to August recess.