For The Week Ending Sept. 20, 2013
HOUSE PASSES NUTRITION BILL WITH $39 BILLION IN CUTS
The House Thursday passed on a 217-210 vote the “Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act,” which would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, by $39 billion over 10 years. SNAP and other federal nutrition programs previously had been part of the Farm Bill — the nutrition title — but were striped from the House-approved 2013 Farm Bill in July. The House now must vote to combine the nutrition-only bill and the Farm Bill and ask the Senate for a conference to reconcile differences between each chamber’s Farm Bill. The Senate’s 2013 Farm Bill cuts $4 billion from the nutrition title. Voting against the House’s nutrition-only bill were 15 Republicans and 195 Democrats. NPPC will continue to keep members updated on Farm Bill developments.
HOUSE PASSES CONTINUING RESOLUTION TO FUND GOVERNMENT
The House Friday passed a Continuing Resolution (H.J. Res. 59) to fund the government through Dec. 15. The measure includes language prohibiting the use of funds to implement the Affordable Healthcare Act (also known as Obamacare). Senate leadership stated it will not pass the bill with the healthcare provision in it. If the Senate passes a separate funding bill, it would go back to the House for consideration. If a resolution is not passed by Congress by Sept. 30, the government will shut down starting Oct. 1.
COURT REJECTS AGRICULTURE’S CHALLENGE TO EPA CHESAPEAKE BAY REGULATION
A U.S. District Court last Friday rejected a legal challenge from NPPC and other agricultural organizations to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency water regulation for the Chesapeake Bay that will affect farmers in six states. EPA’s regulation sets for the Bay total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) – the amount of pollutants, including nutrients from farms – that a water body can receive and still meet water-quality standards. NPPC, American Farm Bureau Federation, the Fertilizer Institute, National Corn Growers Association and the National Chicken Council filed suit when the regulation was issued in 2010, arguing that the Clean Water Act does not authorize EPA to set standards for states, that the regulation is arbitrary and capricious and that the TMDLs were based on flawed computer modeling. The regulation, which severely restricts field application of manure, would drive out of business many farmers in the 64,000-square-mile watershed, which covers parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, the groups argued. The agricultural organizations, which are considering an appeal of the case, also are concerned that the regulation, including the TMDLs, will be used as a model for other waterways, including the Mississippi River, and could be used to limit the size of farms and restrict the application of manure to cropland.
EPA READYING RULE TO EXPAND REGULATION OF U.S. WATERS
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued for interagency review a rule to redefine “waters of the United States” and, thereby, give the agency greater jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act (CWA) over the nation’s waterways and wetlands. The rule would be in lieu of draft guidance on identifying waters protected by the CWA proposed in early 2012 by EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. NPPC and other agricultural organizations expressed concern with the CWA expansion, commenting that the agencies misconstrued and reinterpreted a U.S. Supreme Court case to support their new, expansive definition of “waters of the United States.” The draft guidance will be withdrawn, EPA said yesterday. At the same time the rule is out for interagency review, EPA is asking for public comments on a draft report on the connectivity or isolation of streams and wetlands relative to larger water bodies such as rivers, lakes, estuaries and oceans. When finalized, the report will provide the scientific basis needed to clarify CWA jurisdiction. Currently, EPA’s jurisdiction under the CWA includes “navigable waters of the United States” and waterways with a hydrologic connection to navigable waters. There is concern by agriculture that an expanded CWA jurisdiction would allow EPA to regulate, for example, tile drainage and “ephemeral” streams on farms and to require farmers to obtain CWA permits.
CHIEF NEGOTIATORS MEET IN WASHINGTON FOR TPP INTERSESSIONAL
Chief negotiators from the 11 member countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) met in Washington, D.C., this week to build on progress made at the most recent round of negotiations held in late August. Negotiators are seeking to reach a basic agreement by the leaders’ summit at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting October 7-8, which will include a meeting between President Obama and his counterparts from TPP member countries. Officials have stated that they wish to conclude TPP negotiations by the end of this year. Recently reported progress between the United States and Japan on tariff cuts and autos and between the United States and Vietnam on market access and reforming state-owned enterprises indicates that negotiations are in the end game. The TPP is a comprehensive regional trade negotiation that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The TPP countries account for nearly 40 percent of global economic output. Japan’s inclusion in TPP earlier this year makes it the single most important trade negotiation ever for the U.S. pork industry and many other U.S. agriculture sectors. 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.
NPPC MEETS WITH CANADIAN, MEXICAN PORK PRODUCERS GROUPS
NPPC President Randy Spronk, President-Elect Dr. Howard Hill, CEO Neil Dierks and Vice President and Counsel for International Affairs Nick Giordano met this week in Seattle, Wash., with staff and board leadership from the Canadian Pork Council and the Mexican pork producer organization, the Confederacion de Porcicultores Mexicanos. The producer groups discussed issues of mutual interest, including animal health, food safety, industry economics, animal care and trade.
REPORT SHOWS HOSPITALS TOP CONCERN AS THREAT FOR ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week issued a report on antibiotic resistance, showing that the most urgent threats are posed by antibiotic-resistant infections in hospitals and not by antibiotics use to keep food animals healthy. Of the 18 specific resistance concerns outlined in the report, only two have possible connections to antibiotic use in food animals. Click here to read the CDC report.