For The Week Ending Sept. 27, 2013
HSUS LOSES; COURT DISMISSES “PORK, THE OTHER WHITE MEAT” LAWSUIT
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Wednesday was dealt a significant loss by a U.S. district judge who dismissed a lawsuit filed by HSUS over the National Pork Board’s purchase of the “Pork, The Other White Meat” trademark from NPPC. HSUS, which was joined in the suit by a lone Iowa pork producer and the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – and Secretary Tom Vilsack – over approval of the trademark purchase and the Pork Board’s annual payments to NPPC. HSUS argued that the sale and payments were unlawful since the Pork Board is prohibited from using checkoff dollars to influence legislation. The court dismissed the HSUS case, ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing and that no one had suffered any injury from the Agriculture Secretary’s actions. NPPC applauded the Secretary’s willingness to defend the case and pork producers across this country. Click here to read the Court’s opinion.
HOUSE RULES COMMITTEE VOTES TO COMBINE COMMODITY, NUTRITION FARM BILL TITLES
The House Rules Committee Thursday voted on a rule that will officially combine the House-passed commodity title with the House-passed nutrition title of the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill provision is part of an encompassing “marital law” rule that will allow Republican leadership to move rapidly over the upcoming weekend on debt and funding bills before the fiscal year ends Monday. The bill could be voted on this weekend. If passed, it would require the Senate to reappoint conferees, further delaying the process. There is zero chance of passing a complete farm bill before the current 2008 Farm Bill extension expires on Monday.
SENATE APPROVES BILL TO AVERT GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN (UNTIL NOVEMBER 15)
The Senate Friday approved on a 54-44 vote H.J.Res.59 to prevent an Oct. 1 federal government shutdown and keep departments, including USDA and FDA, funded at FY 2013 levels until Nov. 15. The Senate also voted to strip House language that would defund the Affordable Healthcare Act (also known as Obamacare). The bill now heads back to the House for consideration on Saturday. A government shutdown would still allow USDA Food Safety Inspection Service inspectors to remain on the job. However, the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program would stop, as well as halt funding for the Foreign Agricultural Service’s Foreign Market Development Program and the Market Access Program. The government shutdown would affect non-essential government functions. NPPC will keep its members updated on developments.
WTO COMPLIANCE PANEL REQUESTED BY CANADA, MEXICO ESTABLISHED
Canada and Mexico this week were granted their second request for a compliance panel, which will decide whether the May country-of-origin labeling (COOL) regulation is consistent with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 2012 ruling. USDA proposed the new COOL rule in March after a 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. 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. Mexico and Canada were the second and fourth largest export markets by value for U.S. pork, with exports totaling $1.13 billion and $856 million, respectively. The compliance panel is expected to circulate its report within 90 days.
NPPC CONCERNED ABOUT NON-RECIPROCAL TRADE AND PREFERENCE PROGRAMS
South Africa Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies was in Washington, D.C., last week to meet with U.S. officials and business leaders to discuss the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). AGOA is a preferential trade program that provides beneficiary countries in Sub-Saharan Africa with access to the U.S. market; the program is set to expire in 2015. In June, the Obama Administration committed to extending the program before it lapses in 2015 but will review certain policies such as unfair trade practices of AGOA countries. Although NPPC does not currently take a position on the extension of AGOA, U.S. pork producers are very concerned about renewing significant market access benefits to South Africa at the same time that South Africa has a de facto ban on U.S. pork. South Africa blocks U.S. pork exports based on unscientific and unjustified concern about porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), pseudorabies (PRV) and trichinae. PRRS is not a food safety issue, and there is negligible risk of PRV and trichinae in the U.S. commercial herd. Pork producers have similar concerns with Thailand and the Philippines, which benefit through the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. GSP is a program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world and provides preferential duty-free treatment for thousands of products from a wide range of countries, including many least-developed/developing countries. Thailand restricts U.S. pork imports through its non-science-based ban on the importation of pork produced using ractopamine, the reluctance of the Thai Department of Livestock and Development to grant import licenses for uncooked U.S. pork, and an inspection fee of five Baht per kilogram ($160 per metric ton) on imported pork compared with an inspection fee of only $15 on domestic pork. The Philippines has a history of using a number of non-tariff restrictions to limit pork imports; current barriers include the use of a WTO illegal reference price scheme and cold storage requirements that only apply to imported pork – not to domestic pork. South Africa benefits from both AGOA and GSP. NPPC questions whether South Africa, Thailand and the Philippines should be eligible for preferential trade benefits when U.S. pork exports are subject to unscientific and discriminatory trade barriers. GSP legislation expired on August 1, and legislation has been introduced to renew the program through September 2015. NPPC understands the benefits of trade preference programs not only for the beneficiary nation but also for U.S. consumers and businesses. But, in essence, these preferential arrangements are one way free trade agreements – the U.S. takes much of the exports from the beneficiary nation at a zero tariff while the U.S. typically faces myriad non-tariff measures which limit or even block U.S. exports. Much has been said about enforcement of U.S. rights in trade by this Congress and past congresses as well as by this Administration and past administrations. With the lapse of GSP and the clock ticking on AGOA, the U.S. has an unprecedented opportunity to generate exports and create jobs by enforcing its trade rights. Many U.S. sectors stand to benefit.
FDA ISSUES FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICE ON ANTIBIOTIC SALES DRUG REPORTING
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week published a Federal Register notice outlining revisions to the current method of reporting of antibiotics sold or distributed for use in food-producing animals. FDA proposes that in addition to reporting gross quantities of antibiotics sold by class, reporting must also be classified by medical importance, route of administration, whether it requires veterinary oversight, and if the product is used for therapeutic or production purposes. The Animal Drug User Fee Amendments (ADUFA) of 2008 established a requirement that animal drug companies annually report to FDA the amount of antimicrobial drugs they sell or distribute for use in food-producing animals. ADUFA also requires FDA provide summaries of these sales and distribution data by antimicrobial class. The law directs the agency to independently report only those antimicrobial drug classes that contain drug products marketed by three or more distinct animal drug companies and to report data in a manner that protects both national security and confidential business information. In 2012, NPPC provided extensive comments for FDA for the following requests. In July 2012, FDA asked for comments from the public on possible enhancements to the existing requirements related to the collection of antimicrobial drug sales and distribution data and input on alternative methods for monitoring antimicrobial use in food-producing animals. FDA also requested comments on how the agency can best compile and present its annual Summary Report of Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-producing Animals to provide additional clarity and level of detail, while still protecting confidential business information as required by the law. The public comment period opened Thursday and will close Nov. 25. To comment, visit www.regulations.gov and enter docket number FDA-2012-N-0447.
2012 CENSUS FORMS PAST DUE
The 2012 Economic Census is nearing its final days of data collection. The U.S. Census Bureau has provided time extensions to respond. The Economic Census is required by law. The Bureau warns that in this economic environment, it is essential to have the most accurate measure of the U.S. economy. For assistance, call 877-790-1876. Electronic reporting is also available here: econhelp.census.gov.
HOUSE AGRICULTURE SUBCOMMITTEE TO HOLD CTFC HEARING
The House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management next Wednesday will hold a hearing titled, “The Future of the CFTC: Perspectives on Customer Protections.”
SENATE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE TO HOLD ADVANCED BIOFUELS HEARING
The Senate Agriculture Committee next Thursday will hold a hearing titled, “Advanced Biofuels: Creating Jobs and Lower Prices at the Pump.” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack will testify at the session along with others from the biofuels industry.