For The Week Ending Sept. 13, 2013


Meat industry trade groups, including NPPC, will appeal a U.S. District Court judge’s Sept. 11 decision to deny their request for a preliminary injunction against USDA’s new country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rule. The organizations, including 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, asked for the injunction as part of a lawsuit they filed in early July on the COOL rule. USDA proposed the new 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 (2008) COOL requirements violated the WTO’s Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) agreement. 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 the new rule does nothing to ease the concerns that prompted their original complaint. A decision on the groups’ lawsuit, which is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is expected early next year. Meanwhile, Canada has asked the WTO to establish a panel to determine whether the new COOL rule complies with the TBT agreement. That ruling is expected later next year. Should the labeling rule not be compliant, Canada – and Mexico – would be allowed to impose retaliatory tariffs on a host of U.S. products, including pork.


The House next week is set to address the nutrition portion of the Farm Bill that was stripped during floor action in July. This standalone version of the nutrition title would set nutrition program (including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps) funding at $40 billion less than previously authorized levels. Prior to Congress’ August recess, the House passed a commodity-only portion of the Farm Bill (leaving out the nutrition title that comprised 80 percent of farm bill funding). House leadership is anticipated to appoint conferees so the Senate and House can begin working together in conference. However, it is unlikely that a conference report will be agreed to before the current Farm Bill extension expires on Sept. 30. The Senate passed a complete Farm Bill in June. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., this week urged House Republican leadership to take the Farm Bill to conference – even without the nutrition portion. NPPC will keep members updated to Farm Bill developments.


NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation today responded to inflammatory rhetoric included in a request made by three environmental activist groups to intervene in a lawsuit the two agricultural organizations filed against EPA. The NPPC-Farm Bureau suit, filed in July and pending in federal court in Minnesota, seeks to protect farmers’ and ranchers’ personal information from disclosure by EPA under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In early February, EPA’s Office of Water released raw data from hundreds of farms in 30 states, including names, addresses and GPS coordinates of farms and personal contact information, to several environmental groups that had made FOIA requests for it. After objections from NPPC and other farm organizations, EPA asked that the environmental groups return the data but reissued it after redacting some of the information. The reissued data still contained personal information on farmers. When EPA informed agricultural organizations in late June of its intent to again release the information, the lawsuit was filed against the agency. EPA in July agreed to forego future releases of farm data until the conclusion of the litigation, which is expected late next year. While NPPC and the Farm Bureau did not oppose the environmental groups’ request to intervene in the suit, they filed a response objecting to the false accusations about poultry and livestock farmers. The groups exaggerated and fabricated “facts” about livestock and poultry operations and how they are regulated, NPPC and the Farm Bureau said in their response.


NPPC this week submitted comments in support of an exemption from a new U.S. Department of Transportation rule for drivers who transport livestock. Effective July 1, the hours-of-service regulation 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. NPPC, along with 13 other livestock, poultry and food organizations, in June petitioned the FMCSA for a 90-day waiver from complying with the rest break requirement and for a two-year exemption from the rule for livestock haulers. NPPC subsequently requested a permanent exemption from the rule. The agency approved the waiver, which expires Oct. 9, and agreed to consider an exemption. In a June 19 letter to the FMCSA, 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 [the] regulation …” In its recent comments, NPPC pointed out that the U.S. pork industry has a program – Transport Quality Assurance (TQA) – that educates drivers on transportation safety and animal welfare. To date, the TQA program has certified approximately 650 advisers, who provide training under the program, and nearly 30,000 animal handlers, and most major meat packers require that any driver arriving at their plants be TQA certified. It also pointed out that extreme weather during transportation can affect pig health and that requiring drivers to stop for a 30-minute rest break could exacerbate any health problems and even increase pig mortality levels. Click here to read NPPC’s comments.


To help reduce the risk of hogs contracting Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV), NPPC, the National Pork Board and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians have created guidelines related to manure, which has been identified as a primary way the virus spreads from pig to pig and from farm to farm. First identified in the United States in May, PEDV has caused significant losses to some pork producers. On some sow farms, the virus has caused mortality rates in young pigs of up to 100 percent. The new guidelines stress communications between producers and commercial manure haulers before, during and after pumping manure from pits or lagoons to ensure that biosecurity protocols are followed.


NPPC this week held its fall Legislative Action Conference in Washington, D.C. The biannual “fly-in” drew from around the country approximately 150 pork producers, who lobbied their members of congress on issues of importance to the U.S. pork industry, including the Farm Bill, feral swine eradication, mandatory country-of-origin (MCOOL) labeling, and trade issues including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). NPPC staff presented pork producers with updates on legislative issues. Speakers at the conference included U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and House Agriculture Committee member and Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio. Producers and Capitol Hill staff and lawmakers also attended NPPC’s record-breaking Capitol Hill-famous “Rack of Pork” congressional reception.


House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., Tuesday introduced a Continuing Resolution (H.J. Res. 59) to provide short-term funding for federal programs – and to prevent a government shutdown – beyond the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The resolution continues $986.3 billion in funding for government programs and services at the current, post-sequestration annual rate until Dec.15.

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