For the Week Ending April 28, 2017

May 1, 2017

TRUMP AGREES TO RENEGOTIATE RATHER THAN WITHDRAW FROM NAFTA

After pleas from NPPC and other U.S. agricultural groups, the Trump administration this week agreed to renegotiate rather than withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NPPC previously urged the president to ensure there are no disruptions in U.S. pork exports to Canada and Mexico and to make sure that in any renegotiated deal tariffs remain at zero for pork traded in North America. Canada is the No. 4 market for U.S. pork exports, and Mexico is No. 2. Last year, the U.S. pork industry shipped almost $799 million of pork to the former and nearly $1.4 billion to the latter. Since NAFTA went into effect Jan. 1, 1994, U.S. trade north and south of the borders has more than tripled, growing more rapidly than U.S. trade with the rest of the world. Canada and Mexico are the two largest destinations for U.S. goods and services, accounting for more than one-third of total U.S. exports, adding $80 billion to the U.S. economy and supporting more than 3 million American jobs, according to data from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. In fact, U.S. manufacturing exports to Canada and Mexico have increased nearly 260 percent over the past 23 years, and U.S. farm exports to the countries have grown by more than 150 percent.

 

PERDUE CONFIRMED AS 31ST AGRICULTURE SECRETARY

Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue this week was confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of Agriculture. NPPC, which strongly backed Perdue, said he will be “very good” for U.S. agriculture, pointing out that during his confirmation hearing Perdue said he would be a “tenacious” advocate for agriculture and would work with the Trump administration “to establish a strong trade policy that benefits agriculture.” A veterinarian and agri-businessman who grew up on a dairy and row crop farm in Central Georgia, Perdue was confirmed on an 87-11 Senate vote. He is the 31st agriculture secretary.

 

NPPC ASKS PORK PRODUCERS TO URGE USDA TO WITHDRAW ‘GIPSA’ RULE

NPPC is continuing its efforts to get the Trump administration to withdraw the Obama-era Farmer Fair Practices Rules related to the buying and selling of livestock. Written by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA), it includes two proposed regulations and an interim final rule, the latter of which is set to become effective Oct. 19. A new proposed GIPSA rule will determine what USDA should do with the interim final rule; it has a 60-day period, which expires June 12, for the public to submit comments on whether the agency should: allow the interim final rule to become effective, suspend it indefinitely, delay its effective date or withdraw the regulation. 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. The federal appeals courts in eight of the circuits 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. To submit comments, urging USDA to withdraw the GIPSA interim final rule, click here.

 

ADMINISTRATION CONSIDERS WITHDRAWING FROM ‘KORUS’

The Trump administration is considering withdrawing from the Korea-U.S. (KORUS) Free Trade Agreement, citing America’s trade deficit with the Asian nation. The trade deal was ratified in 2011 and is set for a review. On his recent trip to South Korea, Vice President Pence said the United States would like to “reform” the agreement. NPPC, which was a strong supporter of the trade pact, is hopeful the administration will “modernize” rather than withdraw from KORUS. South Korea is the No. 5 market for U.S. pork exports; the U.S. pork industry shipped more than $365 million of product to South Korea.

 

BILL WOULD MAKE RULEMAKING PROCESS MORE TRANSPARENT, FAIR

Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., this week introduced legislation to make the regulatory process more transparent and “fair.” The “Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017” would require agencies during the rulemaking process to issue a simple notice that explains the problem they intend to address and allows the public to weigh in on the need for the regulation and on options agencies should consider. Agencies also would be required to use the “best reasonably available” scientific, technical and economic information in putting a regulation together, and they would need to conduct cost-benefit analyses on rules and adopt the most cost-effect regulation. The legislation also would improve agency use of guidance documents and ensure agencies don’t use such documents as a way avoid the public input required to write new rules. Additionally, the measure would expand and strengthen retrospective review requirements so that agencies regularly assess whether rules are meeting their objectives.

 

NEW TASK FORCE WILL PROMOTE AGRICULTURE

President Trump this week signed an executive order establishing an Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to “identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes to promote in rural America agriculture, economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, energy security, and quality of life.”

 

LIGHTHIZER NOMINATION TO HEAD USTR ADVANCES

The Senate Finance Committee voted 26-0 this week to approve Robert Lighthizer’s nomination for U.S. trade representative. He still must be approved by the full Senate. NPPC supports Lighthizer to be USTR ambassador, noting that he told the Senate Finance Committee at a March confirmation hearing that he places high importance on agricultural trade.

 

WHAT’S AHEAD

 

HEARING SET ON BRANSTAD NOMINATION TO BE AMBASSADOR TO CHINA

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad will get a hearing next week on his nomination to be the next U.S. ambassador to China. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has scheduled a hearing for next Tuesday. China is an important market for U.S. pork, which shipped $1.1 billion of product there in 2016.

 

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.