For The Week Ending Jan. 17, 2014
HOUSE, SENATE APPROVE OMNIBUS SPENDING BILL
The House and Senate this week approved a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government for the rest of fiscal 2014. The bill provides $20.9 billion – an increase of $350 million from fiscal 2013 – for discretionary funding for USDA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Farm Credit Administration. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service would receive more than $1 billion, $19 million less than fiscal 2013. Also included are $20 million for feral swine eradication and $404 million for construction of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kan., to replace Plum Island in New York. In addition to funding agencies and programs, the bill continues the prohibition on the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) from implementing regulations related to the 2010 proposed GIPSA rule that dealt with contracts in the livestock and poultry industries. The omnibus package also includes language addressing mandatory country-of-origin labeling (MCOOL), expressing the sense of Congress that the May 23 rule from USDA on meat labeling does not meet U.S. trade obligations under the World Trade Organization and should be changed. While the MCOOL language is helpful and puts USDA on notice that Congress is not satisfied with its approach, it is non-binding and does not force USDA to take action. The bill marks the first comprehensive spending proposal for the federal government since the 2012 omnibus spending bill. The federal government has since been running on piecemeal funding bills. The legislation now goes to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law.
FARM BILL MEETINGS CONTINUE
The four Farm Bill Conference Committee principals – House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Ranking Member Thad Cochran, R-Miss. – this week continued their regular meetings to discuss major issues between the Senate- and House-passed farm bills, including payment limits and the dairy programs. The Farm Bill conference committee likely will not convene until Jan. 27, though Chairman Lucas said a formal schedule has not been established. The top three provisions for the pork industry that have not been decided include: the King Amendment; the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) provision; and the country-of-origin labeling rule. NPPC supports a provision to prevent GIPSA from writing a rule that dictates the terms of private livestock contracts. Also, NPPC is urging conferees to include in the Farm Bill changes to a new USDA rule on country-of-origin labeling of meat to make it compliant with World Trade Organization trade rules. The King Amendment would prohibit a state from excluding lawfully produced agricultural products from other states from being sold within its borders. Farm Bill talks will continue next week, and NPPC hopes these issues will be resolved. NPPC will continue to keep members up to date on Farm Bill developments.
COMMITTEE CONSIDERS ‘FAST TRACK’ TRADE LEGISLATION
The Senate Finance Committee this week held a hearing on the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation introduced last week. TPA, also known as “fast-track,” allows the president to negotiate free trade agreements (FTA) based on strategic goals and objectives outlined in the legislation, with ongoing congressional oversight. Deals concluded under TPA are subject to congressional approval without amendments. The bipartisan bill sets strong negotiating standards for agriculture and encourages transparency in the process. Currently, the Obama administration is negotiating two ambitious FTAs of great interest to the U.S. pork industry: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with 12 Asia-Pacific nations, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), with the European Union. Passage of TPA is important to finalizing these deals as comprehensive, high-standard agreements. TPP negotiations are nearing a conclusion, and a ministerial meeting among the trading partners has been proposed for Feb. 22-25 in Singapore. The U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman also is tentatively meeting with Japanese Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi Jan. 25. Agricultural issues remain a huge area of concern in the TPP negotiations, with Japan demanding special treatment for its agriculture sector. Japan is the top market for U.S. pork, amounting to nearly $2 billion worth of pork exports. According to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, increased pork exports resulting from a TPP agreement that has all member countries eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers would create more than 15,500 direct and indirect U.S. pork-related jobs.
DIETARY GUIDELINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE MEETS
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee this week held its second public meeting to hear comments from stakeholders. Every five years, USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services updates the dietary guidelines for Americans, which are designed to provide science-based advice related to food and physical activity choices to promote good health and a healthy weight and to prevent disease for Americans ages two and over. The Dietary Guidelines form the basis of federal nutrition policy, education, outreach and food-assistance programs used by consumers, industry, nutrition educators and health professionals. All federal dietary guidance for the public is required to be consistent with the dietary guidelines. NPPC submitted written comments, citing the many lean, nutrient-rich cuts of pork that can serve as part of a balanced diet. Click here to read NPPC’s comments.
2014 PORK FORUM SET FOR MARCH 6-8
The 2014 National Pork Industry Forum will be held March 6-8, at the Sheraton Hotel Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo. For more information and to register for the joint NPPC-National Pork Board annual meeting, click here.