The halls of Capitol Hill are quiet right now, as lawmakers have returned to their districts for the August recess. However, in just a few weeks, our elected officials will be back in Washington, D.C., to tackle a slew of topics this fall. NPPC has a number of pressing issues we’d like Congress to address and wanted to highlight for HOTH readers.
One of NPPC’s top priorities is congressional ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) agreement. This would allow the U.S. pork industry to maintain zero-duty market access to two of its largest export markets. Last year, Canada and Mexico took more than 40 percent of the pork that was exported from the United States. We strongly urge Congress to ratify USMCA, maintaining zero-duty access to U.S. for our two largest trading partners.
Another top issue for NPPC is continued vigilance to prevent foreign animal disease outbreaks in the U.S. Specifically, the 2018 Farm Bill contained language championed by NPPC to establish permanent, mandatory funding for animal disease prevention and preparedness efforts, including a Foot-and-Mouth (FMD) vaccine bank to quickly contain and eradicate an outbreak. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has yet to establish the vaccine bank. NPPC will urge Congress to support USDA implementation of the bill as intended to protect the rural economy.
Additionally, there is a critical need for 600 new U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) agriculture inspectors to further bolster efforts to prevent African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases from entering our country. Last month, Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) introduced S. 2107, authorizing BCBP to hire additional agricultural inspectors to fully staff U.S. borders and points of entry. NPPC supports this effort and will urge Congress to pass this essential legislation.
Meanwhile, NPPC will urge Congress to support moving regulatory oversight of gene editing in animals from the Food and Drug Administration to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Gene editing, technology that allows for precise, small changes to specific genes, can help farmers breed healthier, more resilient livestock. This technology has the potential to reduce the need for antibiotics and other drugs in our food supply because it can provide a natural immunity to disease. However, the FDA’s proposed regulatory framework will result in a lengthy and expensive approval process, stalling development of this promising technology and instead ceding to other countries that are not bogged down in a regulatory turf war. The USDA already operates a review process for gene editing in plants, which can easily be adapted for livestock, and moreover has decades of experience working closely with the livestock and agriculture industries.
HOTH looks forward to lawmakers returning to Capitol Hill, providing an opportunity for U.S. pork producers to relay ways to ensure consumers here at home and abroad have a plentiful supply of wholesome and nutritious pork products.