For The Week Ending May 9, 2014
CONNECTICUT SUPPORTS FAMILY PIG FARMERS
The Connecticut General Assembly backed local family pig farmers, adjourning this week without considering legislation that would have banned the use of gestation stalls, a safe and humane form of housing pregnant sows. The vast majority of the country’s independent hog farmers use gestation stalls to house pregnant sows because they allow for individualized care and eliminate aggression from other sows. The housing method is approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. Farmers across Connecticut rallied for their right to farm, attending hearings and submitting comments on the stall ban measure. Animal-rights groups hired out-of-state volunteers to lobby the assembly. The defeat in Connecticut is just one in a series of state-level failures for animal-rights groups, which have pushed gestation stall bans in states with little agriculture production, spending exorbitant amounts of their donors’ contributions.
VILSACK TESTIFIES ABOUT FARM BILL BEFORE SENATE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Wednesday testified on the progress of USDA’s enactment of the 2014 Farm Bill before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, covering a number of issues, including several relevant to the pork industry. Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., said he believed that completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations would be very difficult unless President Obama is granted trade promotion authority (TPA). Vilsack offered two options: complete the trade negotiations, bring the trade deals to Congress and get TPA; or grant the president TPA to complete the negotiations. Johanns also asked Vilsack if the Farm Bill provision calling for establishment of an Undersecretary for Trade would be satisfied by the Aug. 6 deadline. Vilsack said the reorganization within USDA to establish the position is more complex than he originally thought, but he would try to meet the deadline unless that meant the quality of the report and decision-making would suffer. NPPC was one of 30 agricultural groups that supported the creation of the position. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said livestock producers have serious concerns with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule to expand jurisdiction over “waters of the United States.” Vilsack said the rule is not yet finalized, and there is opportunity for education and comment. Click here to watch the hearing.
SENATE FINANCE HOLDS HEARING ON CHIEF AGRICULTURAL NEGOTIATOR NOMINATION
The Senate Finance Committee Thursday held a hearing on the nomination of Darci Vetter for the position of Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the Office of United States Trade Representative (USTR). Vetter previously worked for the Senate Finance Committee, served as USDA as Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and has worked at USTR on agriculture and environmental issues. In her statement to the committee, Vetter said, “I am committed to advancing our ongoing negotiations – TPP and TTIP – where we are pursuing high-standard trade agreements that will create significant new market access opportunities for U.S. agriculture. Eliminating tariffs and unwarranted SPS (sanitary-phytosanitary) and TBT (technical barriers to trade) barriers on agricultural products will ensure our agricultural producers can continue to export high-quality, safe American food and agricultural products.” Currently in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, Japan is insisting on exempting from tariff elimination a number of “sensitive” agricultural products, including pork. A final TPP agreement that does not eliminate all tariffs and non-tariff barriers on U.S. pork products will negatively affect 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. In the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), removal of all European Union 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.
U.S. PORK NOW ELIGIBLE FOR EXPORT TO NEW ZEALAND
New Zealand this week announced that it will allow the importation from the United States of consumer-ready cuts of uncooked pork less than 3 kilograms. In response to pressure from NPPC, and in the context of trying to persuade the United States to commence negotiations on a free trade agreement, New Zealand undertook a risk assessment on pork, which found negligible risk of disease transmission from consumer-ready cuts of uncooked pork. The New Zealand Pork Industry Board (NZPork) had fought the move through the country’s court system. Most recently, in 2013 NZPork appealed to the Supreme Court, which found in favor of the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries and its Import Health Standard for pork products from countries with porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), including the United States. PRRS is not a food-safety issue, and there is negligible risk of PRRS transmission from the legal importation of pork from countries with the disease. In fact, based on a conservative risk assessment model, New Zealand’s chances of getting PRRS from legally imported uncooked pork products are such that it would get one case every 1,227 years. NPPC’s perseverance paid off as the United States pork industry now has access to the New Zealand market, paving the way for liberalization in other countries with PRRS restrictions such as Australia and South Africa.
USDA RELEASES 2012 CENSUS OF AGRICULTURE FINDINGS
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service last Friday released the final results of the 2012 Census of Agriculture. The data is collected every five years and highlights shifting trends in operator demographics, agriculture production and farm economics. Data revealed that there are 3.2 million farmers operating 2.1 million farms on 914.5 million acres. The census also yielded the following data:
- The top five states for agricultural sales were California, Iowa, Texas, Nebraska and Minnesota.
- 87 percent of farms are operated by families or individuals.
- Young, beginning principal operators whose primary occupation is farming increased 11.3 percent.
- Minority-operated farms increased, with Hispanic-operated farms increasing 21 percent.
- 144,530 farm operators sell products directly to consumers, totaling more than $1.3 billion.
- Organic sales grew but accounted for only 0.8 percent of the total value of agricultural production. Organic sales were $3.12 billion, up from $1.7 billion in 2007.
- Farms with Internet access rose to 69.6 percent, up 13.1 percent.
- The number of farms producing on-farm renewable energy more than doubled.
- For the first time, corn and soybean acres topped 50 percent of all harvested acres.
SENATE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE TO HOLD HEARING ON HIGH FREQUENCY TRADING
The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, next Tuesday will hold a hearing titled “High Frequency and Automated Trading in Futures Markets” to explore high-frequency trading and other forms of automated trading in the derivatives markets and what the Commodity Futures Trading Commission can do to help uphold market integrity. Click here to read testimonies and watch the hearing.