For The Week Ending July 18, 2014
HOUSE COMMITTEE APPROVES MEASURE TO STOP ‘WATERS OF THE U.S.’ RULE
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week passed by voice vote legislation sponsored by Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Ill., that would prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from finalizing a regulation that would expand their jurisdiction over various waters of the United States. Currently, based on several U.S. Supreme Court decisions, EPA and the Corps of Engineers regulate “navigable” waters and waters with a significant hydrologic connection to navigable waters. The proposed regulation would redefine “waters of the United States” to include, among other water bodies, intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. An accompanying interpretive rule lists 56 agricultural conservation practices that would be exempt from the regulation. Southerland’s bill, the “Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014,” H.R. 5078, which has 37 cosponsors, is similar to legislation, S. 2496, sponsored by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., that is pending in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. NPPC this week signed onto a letter in support of H.R. 5078, last week submitted comments on the interpretative rule, and today joined other agricultural organizations on a letter in support of H.R. 5071. Sponsored by Reps. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., H.R. 5071 would require withdrawal of the interpretative rule. NPPC will also be submitting comments on the “Waters of the U.S.” regulation by the Oct. 20 deadline. In a related matter, Wednesday EPA held a webinar to “clarify misconceptions” about the proposed rule.
BIPARTISAN SENATE BILL TO PROTECT FUTURES MARKETS TRADERS INTRODUCED
Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Wednesday introduced legislation to enhance for farmers and ranchers customer protections related to commodities futures trades. The lawmakers’ bill, S. 2601, among other things, would give futures customers an additional day to get payments to brokers to meet margin calls. Following the collapse of futures trading firms MF Global and Peregrine Financial Group, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission proposed and finalized new rules to help regulators better recognize trouble in such companies before they occur. One of the regulations, though, requires futures customers to fully cover the margin of their futures contracts by the morning of the day following a trade. To comply with the rule, brokers are likely to demand drastically increased initial payments from farmers. That could restrict capital that otherwise would be used to hire workers and make capital improvements and other critical investments and prompt some farmers to get out of the futures markets, which historically have helped them manage their risks. NPPC supports this piece of legislation. Companion legislation, H.R. 4413, was approved by the House in late June. Earlier this summer the House approved H.R. 4413, The Customer Protection and End User Relief Act, which included a provision similar to S. 2601.
PANEL UPDATING DIETARY GUIDELINES HOLDS PUBLIC WEBINAR
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), a panel of nutritionists and health experts, Thursday and Friday held its fourth public meeting – a webinar – on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommendations on which are due to the secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services this fall. The animal agriculture industry, including NPPC, is urging the committee to consider the benefits of lean meat and poultry to a balanced, healthy diet. Further, the pork industry is concerned the DGAC is straying into topics that are not pertinent to the diet and nutrition panel’s scope – issues such as environmental sustainability and agriculture production practices. The 2010 guidelines – they are revised every five years – urged consumption of “only moderate” amounts of lean meat. But animal proteins are considered complete proteins, containing all the essential amino acids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a number of critical vitamins and minerals, including B12, heme iron and potassium – often lacking in many Americans – are found primarily in meat. NPPC will be submitting formal comments on the DGAC’s recommendations once they are made.
SENATE PASSES VETERINARY MEDICINE MOBILITY ACT
The Senate Wednesday approved by unanimous agreement the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, H.R. 1528, which amends the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 to permit veterinarians to transport and use controlled substances beyond their primary place(s) of practice. Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., and Ted Yoho, R-Fla., the only veterinarians in Congress, were strong supporters of the bill, which NPPC also backed by signing onto a letter of support sent to Congress last year. The bill was passed by the House last week and now goes to the White House to be signed into law.
NPPC COMMENTS ON U.S.-CANADA FOREIGN ANIMAL DISEASE ZONING INITIATIVE
NPPC Monday submitted comments to USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on a draft framework for the United States and Canada to continue agricultural trading while controlling highly contagious foreign animal diseases (FADs) through regionalization, or zoning. The zoning arrangement will facilitate continued trade between disease-free areas of the United States and Canada while safeguarding animal health in both countries. NPPC expressed support for regionalization, or zoning but also highlighted several discrepancies between current U.S. and Canada programs. In March 2013, USDA implemented an animal disease traceability rule, but, unlike Canada, the rule had no provision for mandatory premise identification or a centralized database for intra- or interstate animal movements or movements to harvest. NPPC also believes USDA should describe the statutory authority in each country that will ensure compliance with zoning decisions.
HOUSE PASSES CHARITABLE GIVING TAX BREAK BILL
The House Thursday passed on a 277-130 vote the “Fighting Hunger Incentive Act of 2014,” H.R. 4719, which permanently extends a set of expired tax breaks for charitable giving and alters certain rules on charitable deductions. As it relates to the pork industry, the bill enhances certain tax deductions for donations of food. In a letter of support led by Feeding America, which NPPC signed on to, nearly 120 food and agriculture organizations said the bill will allow organizations to donate more food to the nearly 50 million Americans at risk of hunger instead of dumping food in a landfill. According to a group of nonprofit organizations – including Feeding America – “the legislation makes permanent the IRA charitable rollover and enhanced deductions for the donations of food inventory and conservation easements, all of which are currently lapsed. Additionally, the bill would streamline the excise tax on private foundation investment income and extend until April 15 the deadline for taxpayers to make charitable contributions and claim a deduction on their previous year’s tax return.”
HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS TRADE SUBCOMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON WTO ISSUES
The House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade Wednesday held a hearing on “Advancing the U.S. Trade Agenda: The World Trade Organization (WTO).” Michael Punke, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO in Geneva, Switzerland, testified at the hearing. In his opening statement, panel Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., addressed the need to strengthen and improve the WTO, particularly with regard to non-tariff barriers, including sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) barriers to agricultural products. Punke said that the United States must continue to play a leading role in shaping the WTO’s international trade standards. Punke was also questioned on WTO compliance on SPS issues, specifically from the EU, related to U.S. livestock, which is affected by the EU’s non-compliance on ractopamine and beef hormones. Punke ensured the committee that the United States is striving for science-based results in its current negotiating efforts.
SIXTH ROUND OF TTIP NEGOTIATIONS CONCLUDE IN BRUSSELS
The sixth round of negotiations between the United States and the European Union on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) took place July 14-18 in Brussels, Belgium. The discussions ended with no major breakthroughs. While the EU is willing to eliminate tariffs on nearly all goods, it announced publicly it was unwilling to eliminate them on beef, poultry and pork. Additionally, EU Trade Minister Karl De Gucht stated that the EU will not change its legislation on beef hormones and the feed additive ractopamine, which is used in beef and pork production. NPPC’s position is that tariffs and non-tariff barriers should be eliminated on all products, including pork. The elimination of EU tariffs and non-tariff measures are reasonable requests and are consistent with previously concluded U.S. free trade agreements. The EU is the second largest market in the world for pork consumption and represents a tremendous market opportunity for U.S. pork exports. Yet, the United States exports more pork to Honduras than to the 28 nations of the EU. Removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade 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. The seventh round of negotiations has yet to be scheduled.