For The Week Ending June 20, 2014

 

HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON EPA’S ‘WATER’ RULE
The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry Thursday heard testimony from USDA Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie and several agriculture stakeholders on a proposed interpretive rule that accompanies the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s so-called Waters of the U.S. proposed rule. The Waters of the U.S. proposed rule would redefine the term “waters of the U.S.” to include intermittent and ephemeral streams; it would significantly expand EPA’s jurisdiction, covering agricultural areas that previously were out of EPA’s reach. The interpretive proposed rule lists 56 agriculture conservation practices that would be exempt from the Waters of the U.S. proposed rule. Several subcommittee members expressed strong disapproval with the interpretive rule, believing its “voluntary” participation, which Bonnie repeatedly referenced. Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., questioned Bonnie on the need for the interpretive rule if it was, in fact, voluntary and suggested the proposed interpretive rule be withdrawn. Click here to read testimonies and watch the hearing.

SENATE CANCELS MARKUP, ROBERTS INTRODUCES BILL TO STOP EPA’S ‘WATER’ RULE
In the clearest signal yet of congressional disapproval for EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” proposed rule, Senate leadership this week was forced to cancel a routine markup of an Energy and Water Development appropriations bill when it became clear that opponents of the proposed rule had sufficient votes to include an amendment prohibiting EPA from finalizing the regulation. The Waters Action Coalition, of which NPPC is a member, submitted a letter in support of the amendment, with 41 agricultural and other industry groups signing on in support of the amendment, which was going to be introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., at Thursday’s Committee markup. Also Thursday, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., along with 29 other Republican senators, introduced legislation – “Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014” – to prevent the EPA from implementing the proposed “Waters of the U.S.” rule. The senators say the bill “prohibits the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Secretary of the Army from finalizing the rule or trying a similar regulation in the future.”

SENATE, HOUSE POSTPONE VOTES ON FISCAL 2015 APPROPRIATIONS BILLS
The Senate voted this week to combine the House-passed Commerce and Justice Appropriations bill into H.R. 4660, a “minibus” package that also includes fiscal 2015 funding for the departments of Agriculture, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. However, the minibus was pulled from the Senate floor Thursday by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., after an attempt to require 60 votes to adopt any amendments failed. The bill includes $1 billion for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service ($12 million above the fiscal 2014 level); $1.1 billion for the Agricultural Research Service ($17 million above fiscal 2014); and $2.6 billion for the Food and Drug Administration (which is $36 million above fiscal 2014). The House last week put on hold a final vote for its agricultural appropriations bill until a new Majority Leader could be elected. Current House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., Thursday was elected to the post to replace Eric Cantor, R-Va., who decided to step down after losing his primary election for the Virginia 7th Congressional District seat. The House is expected to resume debate and vote on the bill next week. In the House bill, NPPC helped secure language that prohibits USDA from implementing certain burdensome provisions included in the 2008 Farm Bill related to the buying and selling of livestock under the Grain Inspection and Packers and Stockyards Act (GIPSA). Additionally, Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, requested and was able to secure funding for research and diagnostics on the porcine endemic diarrhea virus (PEDv) to better understand the transmission of the disease.

HOUSE RULES COMMITTEE PASSES CFTC REAUTHORIZATION BILL
The House Rules Committee Wednesday passed H.R. 4413, the “Customer Protection and End-User Relief Act,” to reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration. NPPC was one of more than 30 agricultural organizations that sent a joint letter Wednesday to House lawmakers, urging them to pass the bill, which includes protections for agricultural futures customers. In the letter, the groups said the bill provides:

  • Enhanced reporting, transparency and accountability in futures markets.
  • The ability for customers to “claw back” assets from a parent firm in the event of a shortfall of customer funds in FCM insolvencies – something that wasn’t possible with MF Global.
  • A roadmap for the CFTC to perform “meaningful cost-benefit analysis” before proposing major rules.
  • A solution to the “very troubling ‘residual interest’ rule approved last fall by CFTC that would force customers to pre-margin hedge accounts, thereby putting perhaps twice as much customer money at risk, dramatically increasing hedging costs, and likely driving farmers, ranchers and small hedgers out of the futures market.”
  • Relief from technologically infeasible record-keeping requirements in the cash commodity markets.

The bill was passed out of the House Agriculture Committee in April. NPPC worked closely with other agricultural organizations to prevent a provision that would have required producers to “pre-fund” margin call accounts. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has indicated plans to begin work on CFTC legislation this summer.

NPPC VETERINARIAN PARTICIPATES IN USDA SECRETARY’S COMMITTEE ON ANIMAL HEALTH
NPPC Chief Veterinarian Dr. Liz Wagstrom, a committee member on the USDA Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Animal Health, attended and provided input at the group’s meeting this week in Washington, D.C. Topics discussed included animal disease traceability, emergency management and preparedness, secure supply projects, antimicrobial resistance, foreign animal disease zoning and non-regulatory approaches. The purpose of the committee is to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on matters of animal health, including the means to prevent, conduct surveillance on, monitor, control and eradicate animal diseases of national importance.

NPPC ADDRESSES SPS ISSUES WITH SINGAPORE
NPPC President Dr. Howard Hill, a veterinarian and pork producer from Cambridge, Iowa; Bobby Acord, a consultant to NPPC and past administrator of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Dr. Jim Dickson, a microbiologist at Iowa State University; and NPPC Director of International Trade Policy Laurie Hueneke this week traveled to Singapore to meet with officials from that country’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and Ministry of Trade and Industry. They discussed market access issues for U.S. pork being imported into Singapore and provided the scientific rationale for the country to remove sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to pork. U.S. pork exports to Singapore have trended strongly up since the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was implemented in January 2004, increasing from 511 metric tons valued at $1.4 million in 2003 – the year before the FTA was implemented – to 17,311 metric tons valued at nearly $45 million in 2013. Although the United States already has duty-free access for pork in Singapore through its FTA with that country, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations present an opportunity for U.S. negotiators to get Singapore to eliminate non-tariff barriers that suppress U.S. pork exports. All U.S. chilled pork entering Singapore, for example, must be tested for trichinae. The country also restricts imports with unscientific time restraints, including requiring processed pork to be imported within three months of its production date before being subject to testing. In a 2013 victory for U.S. pork spearheaded by NPPC, Singapore updated its import requirements to permit certain pathogen reduction treatments. Currently, the U.S. pork industry employs a number of post-mortem pathogen reduction treatments as an effective way of reducing the prevalence of foodborne pathogens in pork. Singapore’s barriers to trade are not scientifically justified, and all U.S. pork and pork products should be allowed full and open access as part of a final TPP agreement.

NPPC ATTENDS WORLD MEAT CONGRESS
NPPC this week attended the 20th World Meat Congress in Beijing, China, which is held every two years by the Paris-based International Meat Secretariat. NPPC President Dr. Howard Hill, a veterinarian and pork producer from Cambridge, Iowa, and NPPC Director of International Trade Policy Laurie Hueneke participated in meetings on global challenges and opportunities for the meat industry. During the meeting, Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz voiced his opposition to the U.S. Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations. “The bottom line is that partnership, not protectionism, is the only way forward to meet the world’s growing demand for protein,” Ritz said. The WTO in 2012 ruled that the COOL law violated U.S. obligations under the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, and it gave the United States until May 23, 2013, to make its meat-labeling law compliant with WTO rules. The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a new COOL law intended to come into compliance with WTO guidelines, but the revised rule is considered by the Canadian and Mexican governments to be more discriminatory than the previous labeling scheme, and they requested a WTO compliance panel to review the rule. A ruling from the panel is expected next month.

 

WHAT’S AHEAD

 

HOUSE SUBCOMMITTEE TO HOLD HEARING ON CREDIT AVAILABILITY IN RURAL AREAS
The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development, and Credit next Wednesday will hold a hearing on credit availability in rural America. Witnesses have not been announced. Click here for more information.

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