For the Week Ending April 14, 2017

April 14, 2017

‘GIPSA’ RULE AGAIN DELAYED; NPPC TO URGE REGULATION’S WITHDRAW

The Trump administration this week further delayed the effective date of a regulation related to the buying and selling of livestock, a move applauded by NPPC, which opposes the Obama-era rule. The so-called Farmer Fair Practices Rules, written by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), includes two proposed regulations and an interim final rule, the latter of which now is set to become effective Oct. 19. Originally, it would have been implemented Feb. 21, but President Trump – just days into his presidency – extended the public comment deadline on the Farmer Fair Practices Rules and delayed the interim final rule’s effective date to April 22. That now has been pushed back by 180 days. USDA also proposed a new rule to determine the fate of the interim final rule, setting a 60-day comment period – from April 12 to June 12 – on whether to further delay or withdraw it. The interim final rule would broaden the scope of the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) of 1921 related to using “unfair, unjustly discriminatory or deceptive practices” and to giving “undue or unreasonable preferences or advantages.” Specifically, the regulation would deem such actions per se violations of federal law even if they didn’t harm competition or cause competitive injury, prerequisites for winning PSA cases. USDA in 2010 proposed several PSA provisions – collectively known as the GIPSA Rule – that Congress mandated in the 2008 Farm Bill; eliminating the need to prove a competitive injury to win a PSA lawsuit was not one of them. In fact, Congress rejected such a “no competitive injury” provision during debate on the Farm Bill. Additionally, eight federal appeals courts have held that harm to competition must be an element of a PSA case. NPPC has argued that the interim final rule would prompt an explosion in PSA lawsuits by turning every contract dispute into a federal case subject to triple damages and that the inevitable costs associated with that legal uncertainty could lead to further vertical integration of the pork industry, driving packers to own more of their own hogs. An Informa Economics study found that the GIPSA Rule today would cost the U.S. pork industry $420 million annually – more than $4 per hog – with most of the costs related to PSA lawsuits brought under the “no competitive injury” provision included in the interim final rule. NPPC will be asking pork producers to submit comments to USDA, urging it to withdraw the interim final rule.

 

USDA WANTS TO ADVANCE ‘MODERNIZATION OF PORK SLAUGHTER’ RULE

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) this week said it wants to move forward with a “Modernization of Pork Slaughter” rule. The regulation, which NPPC strongly supports, would increase efficiency and effectiveness of the federal inspection process and allow for the rapid adoption of new food safety technologies in pork slaughter. It also has the potential to increase U.S. hog slaughter capacity. The HACCP Inspection Models Project, or HIMP, would allow FSIS to better focus its inspection resources and partner with the pork industry to better ensure safe products are entering the food supply. It shifts certain food safety responsibilities from federal inspectors to packing plant workers and could lead to faster pork production lines. Currently, five U.S. pork packing plants are participating in HIMP pilot projects; enactment of a modernization rule would make the system available to all packers.

 

FDA EXTENDS COMMENT PERIOD FOR GENE EDITING REGULATION

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week extended the industry comment period for regulations it is considering for gene editing of farm animals. The comment deadline was extended from April 19 to June 19, 2017.

 

WHAT’S AHEAD

 

SECOND SENATE FARM BILL FIELD HEARING SCHEDULED

The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry will hold its second Farm Bill field hearing May 6 in Frankenmuth, Mich. The current Farm Bill expires in September 2018. In addition to research funding related to pork production and maintaining programs for conservation and export promotion, NPPC is urging congressional lawmakers to include in the next Farm Bill language establishing a Foot-and-Mouth Disease vaccine bank.

 

SENATE CONFIRMATION VOTE SET ON NEW AGRICULTURE SECRETARY

The Senate is expected to vote April 24 to confirm former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as the next Secretary of Agriculture. NPPC strongly supports Perdue to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture and has urged the Senate to quickly confirm him.

 

PENCE, ROSS TO TALK TRADE WITH JAPAN

Vice President Mike Pence and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross next week will travel to Tokyo for talks on, among other matters, trade. The Trump administration officials will meet with Japanese Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko. NPPC has urged the administration to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement with Japan, the No. 1 export market for the U.S. pork industry.