For the Week Ending April 20, 2018

April 20, 2018


The House Committee on Agriculture this week approved the “Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018” (H.R. 2), advancing legislation that includes provisions important to U.S. pork producers. The bill calls for first-year mandatory funding of $150 million for a Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine bank, $70 million in block grants to the states for disease prevention and $30 million for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), which provides disease diagnostic support. For the remaining years of the 5-year Farm Bill, the legislation calls for $30 million in mandatory funding for state block grants and $20 million, used at the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture’s discretion, for the vaccine bank, the NAHLN and the states. NPPC is urging Congress to provide annual mandatory funding of $150 million for the vaccine bank, $70 million for state block grants and $30 million for the five-year life of the Farm Bill. NPPC supports the current version of the House bill as a positive first step and was pleased with the adoption of other provisions that support U.S. pork interests. These include funding for the eradication of feral swine, which cause considerable damage and pose food safety risks, and funding for the International Market Development Program, including the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program.



In a letter sent Thursday, 15 senators urged Senate agriculture committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., to include in the 2018 Farm Bill language authorizing a Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine bank. Led by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the lawmakers said such a provision, which also calls for an animal disease and disaster response program, “would help to adequately address risks to animal health, livestock export markets, and industry economic stability.” NPPC has been leading the animal agriculture industry charge to get an FMD vaccine bank including in the next Farm Bill, urging Congress to provide for each of the five years of the agricultural policy blueprint funding of $150 million for the bank, $30 million for the National Animal Laboratory Health Network and $70 million for the states for disease preparation. The Farm Bill approved this week by the House Agriculture Committee includes language establishing and funding an FMD vaccine bank.



A letter from Reps. David Young, R-Iowa, David Rouzer, R-N.C., Ron Kind, D-Wis., and Darin LaHood, R-Ill., is circulating in the U.S. House of representatives, calling for Thailand’s benefits under the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) to be revoked if it does not take immediate steps to eliminate unwarranted trade restrictions on imports of U.S. pork and other agricultural products. U.S. pork producers addressed Thailand’s ban on U.S. pork at meetings with congressional representatives during NPPC’s recent Legislative Action Conference. An op-ed by Ambassador Allen F. Johnson, the chief agriculture negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in the Bush Administration, ran last week addressing Thailand’s unfair trade practices.



The U.S. Supreme Court this week requested the U.S. Solicitor General – whose job is to defend federal laws – to weigh in on two cases challenging state agriculture laws that affect interstate commerce and, thus, have the effect of dictating the livestock production practices of farmers in other states. NPPC is closely watching the lawsuits. The first case – Missouri v. California – challenges a law approved in 2010 by the California Legislature that bans the sale in the state of out-of-state eggs produced from laying hens housed in so-called battery cages. (California voters in 2008 banned such cages, as well as housing used for sows and veal calves; an initiative on this year’s state ballot would extend the out-of-state sales ban to pork and veal.) The second case – Indiana v. Massachusetts – contests Massachusetts’ ban on the sale of out-of-state pork, veal and eggs from animals raised in housing systems prohibited by the state. In both cases, the plaintiffs argue that the state statute violates the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which prohibits – in most instances – states from regulating interstate commerce. NPPC opposed California’s 2008 ballot initiative and the Massachusetts ballot initiative, which the state’s voters approved in 2016. NPPC encouraged Missouri and Indiana to challenge the sales bans on out-of-state meat and eggs.



Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the United Kingdom, this week said the European Union policy that allows products to be blocked form the market without a scientific basis would prevail following the UK’s exit from the EU (Brexit) with some exceptions. The so-called Precautionary Principle would be set aside in cases supporting innovation in key strategic sectors. In addition, Gove suggested the UK would likely put the principle in legislation and provide a stipulation requiring a more risk-based approach to food and chemical regulation. NPPC supports U.S. negotiation of a free trade agreement with the UK following Brexit.



President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week agreed to explore opportunities for expanding trade and investment between the two countries. The announcement followed a bilateral meeting between Japan and the United States earlier this week. President Trump, who last month placed a 25 percent duty on steel imports and 10 percent levy on aluminum, did not include Japan on the list of countries exempt from the tariffs. Last week, the president directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow to consider rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement he withdrew from shortly after taking office. Under the terms of the agreement, tariff and non-tariff barriers on U.S. pork exports to 11 Asia-Pacific countries would have been reduced; Japan’s tariffs would have been phased out. The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – the new TPP – was signed in February by the remaining 11 Pacific-Rim nations, without the United States. NPPC supports bilateral and multilateral trade agreements that expand export opportunities for U.S. pork. Absent these agreements, U.S. pork will lose market share in Japan and other high-growth Asia-Pacific countries.



President Trump this week announced his intent to nominate Dan Berkovitz to become the Democrat commissioner for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Berkovitz, who is currently a partner at law firm WilmerHale, previously served as the CFTC’s general counsel from 2009 to 2013. Berkovitz’s nomination will accompany that of Dawn DeBerry Stump as the Republican commissioner for the agency.



A report issued this week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was critical of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for not acting quickly enough to set pathogen standards for some meat and poultry products, but NPPC said the agency is making progress. The U.S. pork industry has been working with FSIS as it conducts a Raw Pork Products Exploratory Sampling Program and has devoted resources to researching Salmonella interventions for pork processing. FSIS is evaluating the results of the sampling program and is expected to soon determine next steps to further promote the safety of pork products. The GAO’s recommendation on pathogen standards for pork cuts and ground pork products already is being addressed by FSIS, according to NPPC.