For The Week Ending April 4, 2014
PORK PRODUCERS FLY INTO WASHINGTON, MEET WITH MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
NPPC this week held its spring Legislative Action Conference in Washington, D.C. The biannual “fly-in” drew from around the country approximately 125 pork producers, who lobbied their members of Congress on issues of importance to the U.S. pork industry, including the Hours of Service Rule for livestock haulers, EPA personal data release, the federal Renewable Fuels Standard, Porcine Endemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv), USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 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 Reps. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and Jim Matheson, D-Utah; Darci Vetter, USDA deputy undersecretary of Agriculture, Farm & Foreign Agricultural Services; Ed Pagano, former White House deputy assistant to the president for legislative affairs and partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLC; and Richard Sellers, American Feed Industry Association senior vice president of legislative & regulatory affairs. Producers, Capitol Hill staff and lawmakers also attended NPPC’s Capitol Hill-famous and widely-attended “Rack of Pork” congressional reception. Approximately 900 people attended the event.
‘WATERS OF THE UNITED STATES’ DEBATE HEATS UP IN WASHINGTON
Since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week issued a proposed rule on what constitutes a “water of the United States,” debate has grown heated on Capitol Hill. Pork producers from across the country voiced to their members of Congress during NPPC’s legislative fly-in concerns with the proposed rule, which could greatly expand EPA’s jurisdiction over various waterways. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this week testified about the rule before Congress, and Wednesday NPPC Chief Environmental Counsel Michael Formica and NPPC board members attended a stakeholder briefing with EPA officials to discuss potential concerns the proposal raises. NPPC will keep members updated on this important issue.
VILSACK TESTIFIES BEFORE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE, RELEASES FARM BILL REPORT
The House Agriculture Committee Thursday held a hearing “To Review the State of the Rural Economy.” The hearing featured testimony from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who was questioned about USDA’s progress toward implementing the recently passed Farm Bill. Vilsack said disaster programs that expired in 2011 are USDA’s top priority, particularly for livestock producers. Several committee members questioned Vilsack about EPA’s proposed rule to define its jurisdiction over “waters of the United States.” Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., expressed his concern that farmers “cannot run their farms in an efficient way going one day to the next not knowing the definition of ‘navigable waters’.” Vilsack also said USDA next week will announce funding for the Foreign Agricultural Service and Market Access Program. Click here to watch the hearing and read Vilsack’s testimony. On the same day, Vilsack released a report detailing the progress made on the 2014 Farm Bill implementation process.
USDA ANNOUNCES $20 MILLION TO REDUCE FERAL SWINE DAMAGE
USDA Wednesday announced a $20 million national program to reduce damage caused by feral swine. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services will manage the program state-by-state to control populations, test animals for diseases and research methods to better control damage. A significant portion of the program will include surveillance and disease monitoring to protect the health of domestic swine herds. Feral swine have caused $1.5 billion in annual damage and carry diseases that can affect people, domestic animals, livestock and wildlife, as well as local water supplies. APHIS will test feral swine for diseases of concern for U.S. pork producers, such as classical swine fever (which does not exist in the U.S.), swine brucellosis, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRSS), swine influenza and pseudorabies. APHIS aims to have the program operating within six months. Click here for more information about the program.
REQUEST MADE FOR MORE FUNDING OF DISEASE RESEARCH PROGRAMS
NPPC late last week joined with the National Association for the Advancement of Animal Science and 90 national and state agricultural organization in requesting $10 million in fiscal 2015 for the Section 1433 Continuing Animal Health and Disease, Food Security, and Stewardship Research, Education and Extension Programs. Making the request in a letter to Senate and House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees leaders, the groups pointed out that the recently passed farm bill includes an important expansion of Section 1433 to establish a new competitive research grants mechanism to address critical priorities in food security, one health and stewardship. The expanded authority came in response to a historic funding disparity for the animal sciences and represents a strong opportunity to address significant challenges facing animal agriculture. The new competitive grants program in Section 1433 provides a mechanism to focus resources on high priority areas to help animal agriculture meet future challenges.
MF GLOBAL CUSTOMERS TO RECEIVE PAYMENTS
Customers of MF Global, the commodities futures trading firm that in 2011 lost $1.2 billion from customer accounts, including those of many pork producers, will begin receiving funds, according to an announcement this week from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. In addition to restitution to its former customers, a New York District Court Order in November 2013 imposed a $100 million civil monetary penalty on MF Global. When the firm filed for bankruptcy in late October 2011, it listed assets of $41 billion and debts of $39.7 billion. It was then that farmers who produced at least 20 percent of all U.S. hogs learned that their futures accounts were frozen and funds were “missing.” The $1.2 billion of customer funds were comingled with MF Global money that was used to buy risky European debt. In late 2012, NPPC urged the trustees overseeing the firm’s bankruptcy to provide safeguards and protections for customers. Click here for more details.
HEARING HELD ON PRESIDENT’S TRADE POLICY AGENDA
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman yesterday testified before the House Ways & Means Committee on President Obama’s trade policy agenda. Froman said the administration is working to “enhance the global competitiveness of U.S. goods and services by negotiating high-standard trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).” Unfortunately, the definition of a high-standard TPP agreement is different among the member countries, particularly Japan, which wants to exempt from tariff elimination a number of “sensitive” agricultural products, including beef and pork. Froman stressed that everything must be on the table and that all TPP countries were aware of that going into the negotiations. Several lawmakers voiced concerns with Japan’s agricultural market access offer, including Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio, who recently met with pork producers as part of NPPC’s legislative fly-in. Tiberi highlighted the dire issue of Japan’s market exclusion for U.S. pork in the TPP negotiations and asked Froman for a commitment to ensuring Japanese market access for U.S. pork producers. Should Japan not liberalize its market, committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., suggested that it be removed from current negotiations and join at a later date when it is ready to meet the standards of the 21st century agreement. In addition to being the largest value market for U.S. pork exports – $1.89 Billion in 2013 – Japan is the fourth largest market for all of U.S. agriculture, which shipped $12.1 billion of food and agricultural products to the island nation in 2013. A final TPP agreement that does not eliminate all tariffs and non-tariff barriers on U.S. pork products will establish a bad precedent and have implications for U.S. pork exports for the next 20 years, meaning billions of dollars less in U.S. pork sales and tens of thousands fewer U.S. jobs. As NPPC and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association pointed out in a recent Op-Ed, Japan’s current offer would exempt from tariff elimination nearly three times more tariff lines than the number if tariff lines exempted in the 17 U.S. free trade agreements combined concluded since 2000. This would establish a terrible precedent for all future U.S. trade negotiations, including the TTIP, which is currently being negotiated between the United States and the European Union. U.S. pork producers should continue to contact their elected officials and urge them to seek clear assurances from U.S. trade negotiators that the TPP negotiations will not close unless the Japanese agree to eliminate all barriers on U.S. pork and pork products. Click here to take action.
TAIWAN TRADE OFFICIAL IN WASHINGTON
Taiwan Vice Economics Minister Cho Shih-chao this week was in Washington, D.C., to discuss a number of trade issues, including potential membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler. Taiwan and the United States relaunched negotiations for the U.S.-Taiwan Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in March 2013. TIFA talks were suspended in 2007 following Taiwan’s imposition of restrictions on U.S. beef and pork imports. Minister Cho and other Taiwanese officials continue to state publicly that because of food safety concerns Taiwan will not allow U.S. imports of pork produced with ractopamine. The Taiwanese parliament, however, has voted to ease restrictions on U.S. beef imports from cattle produced with ractopamine while leaving the ban in place on pork produced with the same product. Ractopamine is a dietary additive that improves the feed efficiency, growth rate and lean carcass percentage of live hogs and cattle. It has been approved for use in hogs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and by the food-safety agencies in 25 other countries. In 2012, the U.N.’s Codex Alimentarius, which sets international standards for food products, approved a maximum residue limit (MRL) for ractopamine, which U.S. pork meets. According to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, the United States would ship significant amounts of pork to Taiwan if it lifted its ractopamine ban. Taiwan should immediately lift its unjustified ractopamine ban on all U.S. pork and pork products and, at the very least, establish an import MRL based on the U.S. or Codex standard. NPPC will continue to work with the U.S. government to obtain a positive outcome in Taiwan for U.S. pork.
SENATE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE TO VOTE ON CFTC NOMINATIONS
The Senate Agriculture Committee next Tuesday will hold a business meeting to vote on nominees for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Nominees for commissioner include Timothy Massad of Connecticut, who also would serve as chairman, Sharon Bowen of New York and J. Christopher Giancarlo of New Jersey.