For The Week Ending Jan. 31, 2014
HOUSE PASSES FARM BILL
The House Wednesday passed on a 251-166 vote the Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly referred to as the Farm Bill. NPPC proved to be instrumental in securing many U.S. pork industry priorities in one or both versions of the 2013 Farm Bill, including: trichinae surveillance program, funding for feral swine control program, establishing an Undersecretary for Trade, funding for a catastrophic disease event insurance study, and reauthorization export promotion programs. Equally as important is what was not included in the Farm Bill. After one of many long battles with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), NPPC was victorious in keeping the “Egg Products Inspection Act” out of the Farm Bill. The so-called Egg Bill sought to codify an agreement HSUS came to with the egg industry regarding cage sizes for egg-laying hens. NPPC feared, if passed, this legislation would set a dangerous, slippery slope precedent that could translate into livestock sectors. Also excluded from the Farm Bill is the repeal of the required Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) inspection of imported catfish. Catfish inspection will stay at USDA rather than returning to FDA, where all other imported seafood inspection authority resides. The United States would be vulnerable to a challenge of the dual inspection of catfish at the World Trade Organization, and NPPC fears that some exporting nations may be inclined to retaliate against U.S. pork and other agricultural goods, because of an unfair trade restraint. Though crafting and passing the Farm Bill is a huge accomplishment, NPPC believes Congress picked foreign competitors over U.S. livestock farmers. The country of origin labeling (COOL) law is broken, but Congress chose not to fix it. Instead, it passed a bill that subjects U.S. farmers to significant international trade retaliation tariffs from Mexico and Canada which represent the #2 and #3 export markets with combined exports of nearly $2 billion annually. The economic impact of this decision on hard-working American farming families will be significant, and NPPC calls on Congress to resolve the COOL issue. On the House floor Wednesday, a bipartisan group of Congressmen on the House floor spoke in favor of pork industry priorities: Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., Adrian Smith, R-Neb., Steve Womack, R-Ark., and John Shimkus, R-Ill. Reps. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, and Richard Hudson, R-N.C., submitted comments. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., also spoke on the Senate floor. The current farm bill expires today. The bill now heads to the Senate where it is expected to pass early next week.
RFS COMMENT PERIOD CLOSES
The public comment period on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed plans for the implementation of the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standards volumetric mandates closed this week. Under its plan for 2014, EPA is proposing to reduce the mandated volume of renewable fuels. EPA proposed these changes due to the continued reduction in retail demand for gasoline which triggered the so-called “blend wall” earlier than predicted and the failure of the ethanol industry to supply sufficient supplies of next generation biofuels. EPA’s proposal is consistent with the approach the agency laid out in their response to NPPC’s 2012 petition for a short term partial waiver of the RFS to address the 2012 drought. The proposal came following a series of court decisions against the agency regarding implementation of the cellulosic ethanol mandate. EPA staff will continue to review and study the issue, with a final decision expected within the next couple of months. For more information, please call Michael Formica at NPPC’s Washington, D.C. public policy office at 202-347-3600.
NPPC SUBMITS COMMENTS ON ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF ANIMAL CARCASS MANAGEMENT
NPPC this week submitted comments on the proposed action plan for the Environmental Impact Statement and proposed scope of study on animal carcass management. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) intends to prepare an environmental impact statement to examine the potential environmental effects of animal carcass management options used throughout the U.S. As environmentally-conscious business people, pork producers realize their operations must protect and conserve the environment and resources they use and affect. The U.S. pork industry is continuously working to find ways to improve efficiency and reduce the environmental footprint in all parts of production, including reducing mortality levels by improving animal health and welfare and properly managing the handling, care and disposal of the unfortunate mortalities in a manner that has the least impact.
NPPC SUBMITS FDA FOREIGN SUPPLIER VERIFICATION PROGRAM COMMENTS
NPPC this week submitted comments on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed regulations on foreign supplier verification programs for importers of food for humans and animals. The proposed regulations would require importers to help ensure that food imported into the United States is produced in compliance with processes and procedures. NPPC appreciates the risk-based approach FDA has taken in developing the proposed rule. The verification of foreign suppliers and the assurance of safe animal food ingredients is of utmost concern to American pork producers. The vast majority of vitamins and amino acids utilized in swine rations are imported; most of them are from China. In addition, other feed ingredients are also imported to a somewhat lesser extent.
NPPC VICE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF COUNSEL FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS IN BRUSSELS
Nick Giordano, NPPC’s vice president and chief counsel for International Affairs, this week was in Brussels, Belgium, to meet with U.S. embassy officials, European Union (EU) business representatives, and EU officials on issues of mutual interest concerning the negotiations for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a trade agreement between the U.S. and the EU. The EU is the second largest market in the world for pork consumption and represents a tremendous market opportunity for U.S. pork exports. However, numerous unscientific trade barriers, including multiple quotas with high in-quota duties, a ban on the use of ractopamine, mandatory trichinae mitigation, a prohibition on pathogen-reduction treatments and a costly plant approval system prevent the U.S. pork industry from exporting significant amounts of pork to the 28-member economic and political block. The fourth round of negotiations is set for March 10-14 in Brussels. Any trade deal with the EU must eliminate all tariffs and all other barriers on U.S. pork. Removal of all EU barriers would significantly increase U.S. pork exports to the EU, creating more than 17,000 U.S. jobs, according to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes.
SENATE HOLDS HEARING ON SEN. BAUCUS’S NOMINATION AS U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week held a hearing on the nomination of Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., as U.S. ambassador to China. Baucus, current Senate Finance Committee chairman, supported China’s 2001 accession into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and has made eight trips to China. “I have become a firm believer that a strong geopolitical relationship can be born out of a strong economic relationship, which often begins with trade,” Baucus said. The nominee cited negotiations for a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) currently taking place between China and the U.S. and pointed out trade issues such as meat exports and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) as topics that need to be addressed in negotiations. “The treaty will mark an important step in opening China’s economy to U.S. investors and leveling the playing field for American businesses,” Baucus said. A Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote on Baucus’s nomination is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 4. China is the single largest potential market for the U.S. pork industry. NPPC is working closely with the U.S. government and other meat industry groups to preserve and expand trade with China. According to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, if U.S. pork exports to China increase by 1 percent of China’s pork consumption, U.S. pork export values would increase by more than $1 billion and create more than 27,000 jobs in the United States.
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.