For The Week Ending Aug. 1, 2014
140 HOUSE MEMBERS WEIGH IN ON JAPAN’S TPP OFFER
Nearly one-third of the U.S. House this week urged the White House to pursue a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement without countries that prove unwilling to fully open their markets to all U.S. agricultural products. The TPP is a regional negotiation that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which account for nearly 40 percent of global GDP. In a letter sent Wednesday to President Obama, 140 members of the House, led by Ways and Means trade subcommittee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., and Ranking Member Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., indicated that congressional support for the TPP would be jeopardized if U.S. negotiators accept anything less than elimination of all trade barriers to U.S. agricultural goods. They pointed to Japan’s current offer, demanding special treatment for its agricultural sector, including exemption from tariff elimination for certain “sensitive” products, including pork. Click here to read the letter. The lawmakers also said that accepting such a deal – as well as a less-than-ambitious offer from Canada – would set a “damaging” precedent for, and compromise, U.S. negotiations with future TPP members and on future free trade agreements, including one with the European Union. NPPC, which has taken a similar position on Japan’s recalcitrance on tariff elimination, welcomed the congressional show of support for U.S. agriculture. Japan is the fourth largest market for U.S. agriculture, which shipped $12.1 billion of products to the island nation in 2013; Canada is the second largest export destination for U.S. agricultural goods, importing $21.3 billion worth in 2013.
LAWMAKERS URGE USDA TO RESCIND COOL LAW IF WTO RULES AGAINST IT
House lawmakers this week urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to rescind the U.S. Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law if the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules that it violates international trade obligations. A letter signed by 112 House members sent to the U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Michael Froman and Secretary of Agriculture said if the WTO rules against the United States, COOL, which requires meat to be labeled with the country or countries where the animal from which it came was born, raised and slaughtered, should be immediately rescinded to avoid retaliation from Canada and Mexico, which brought cases against the meat labeling law to the WTO. Canada, the second largest export market for U.S. agricultural products valued at $21.3 billion in 2013, already issued a draft retaliation list that includes fresh pork and beef, bakery goods, rice, apples, wine, maple syrup and furniture. Mexico, which is the third largest export market for U.S. agriculture totaling $18.0 billion in 2013, is threatening to suspend preferential tariffs on a variety of produce items, meat, dairy products and other commodities. Such retaliation would be similar to the tariffs applied on pork and many other products by Mexico a few years ago during the NAFTA trucking dispute. Mexico and Canada were the second and fourth largest export markets by value for U.S. pork in 2013, with exports totaling $1.22 billion and $844 million, respectively. NPPC, which opposed COOL when it was being debated in Congress, expects a final WTO compliance panel ruling on the labeling law to be released publicly in September. In a related matter, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit this week upheld a three-judge panel’s dismissal of a case brought by the American Meat Institute, NPPC and several other livestock and poultry organizations against the COOL law. The meat groups had argued that the statute violates the First Amendment rights of regulated entities by compelling them to engage in “burdensome speech without constitutionally adequate justification.”
EPA WATER OFFICE WITHOUT A LEADER
EPA Office of Water Acting Assistant Administrator Nancy Stoner today left her position, as she hit the legal limit on the amount of days an unconfirmed leader can hold an office. Stoner was placed in the post February 2011 after Republicans placed a hold on their nominee for the office. Stoner, who previously managed the Natural Resources Defense Council’s water program, has been a forceful advocate for regulating agriculture. She has served as the public face of EPA’s controversial proposed regulation that 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. NPPC is strongly opposed to the proposed rule and has submitted comments, signed onto letters, and is part of several coalitions formed in response to the proposed rule. The office will remain without a leader until President Obama’s nominee – Ken Kopocis, who has been on hold for 1,148 days – is confirmed. NPPC will keep its members up to date on any developments.
INDIANA PORK PRODUCER RECOGNIZED AS WHITE HOUSE ‘CHAMPION OF CHANGE’
Beth Tharp, a second generation pork producer from Coatesville, Ind., this week was recognized at the White House and USDA as a Champion of Change. The program honors “ordinary Americans (who) are doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” Tharp, along with her husband and parents, owns and operates Legan Livestock and Grain, a swine, corn and soybean operation. Tharp is a recent graduate of the Pork Leadership Institute, a joint effort of NPPC and the National Pork Board, to train future leaders of the pork industry. Tharp is also active in her local community and serves as an advocate for agriculture. Click here to learn more about Tharp.
CONGRESS, CAPITAL UPDATE TAKE BREAK
Congress will begin its August recess next week; Capital Update will not be published again until Sept. 12.