For the Week Ending December 2, 2016

December 2, 2016

PROPOSED ORGANIC STANDARDS RULE NOW AT OMB

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposed Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule now is pending at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the last step in the rulemaking process before it becomes final. NPPC is urging USDA to withdraw the rule, or if it’s approved before Jan. 20, 2017, the Trump USDA to repeal it. In comments in opposition to the rule submitted in July, NPPC said the regulation’s new animal welfare standards for the National Organic Program, if enacted, would be the first time such criteria are codified in federal law and would present serious challenges to livestock producers. There are a number of problems with the proposed welfare rules, NPPC pointed out in its comments, including:

  • Animal handling practices are not a defining characteristic of organic agriculture and are not germane to the National Organic Program as authorized by Congress.
  • The livestock practices will be costly (if even practicable) to implement for current organic producers and serve as a barrier to new producers entering organic production, without making the resulting products substantively more organic.
  • Consumer misconception about the intent of the National Organic Program and the meaning of its label is not a valid rationale for expanding the program to encompass animal welfare.
  • Animal welfare is complex and dynamic; decisions about animal care need to be science based and carefully considered by each producer.
  • The proposed livestock and poultry practices present significant challenges to the maintenance and promotion of public and animal health.

NPPC requested that USDA reconsider the proposed animal welfare standards, arguing that, because animal welfare is not germane under the Organic Foods Production Act, USDA does not have clear authority to promulgate such rules. It also pointed out that the regulation would have a negative effect on the cost and availability of organic livestock and poultry products, cannot be justified by claims that it will clarify public expectations about organic labels or address an unfair competitive disadvantage facing organic producers, are not science based and present real challenges to protecting animal and public health.

 

VIETNAM REVISES MAXIMUM RESIDUE LIMITS PROPOSAL

The Vietnam Food Administration (VFA) recently published revised veterinary drug import maximum residue limits (MRLs) after reviewing comments from NPPC, the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the North American Meat Institute. The comments focused on Vietnam’s earlier proposal to establish zero-tolerance MRL levels for 40 substances, including ractopamine in beef and pork and for trenbolone and zeranol in beef. Also submitting comments and engaging the government of Vietnam were the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The VFA’s recent revised proposal:

  • Reduces to 12 the number of compounds proposed with zero-tolerance MRL levels.
  • Removes the other 28 compounds, including the six that were of greatest concern to the United States.
  • Sets the import tolerance MRL for compounds with an established Codex MRL at that level.

The final version of the proposal has been sent to Vietnam’s Minister of Health for approval.

 

WITH FUTURE OF TPP IN DOUBT, CHINA TOUTS ITS TRADE AGREEMENT

The future of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) remains as unclear as ever, following President-Elect Donald Trump’s pledge to withdraw from the agreement on his first day in office. The 12 countries involved in the TPP, including the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, are scrambling to sustain the progress made over five years of negotiations on the ambitious trade pact, a key provision in President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” strategy. Some countries have indicated their desire to move forward without the United States, including Chile. “Whether it be with the United States or without the United States, there’s a willingness among the countries that make up the TPP to move forward,” Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs Heraldo Munoz said. Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe disagreed. “TPP is meaningless without the United States. This would disturb the fundamental balance of benefits,” he said at a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders in Peru. Meanwhile, China is touting its own trade agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and is widely believed to be wooing additional countries to the 16-nation trade pact. Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo warned the United States that if it stepped back from TPP, it would open the door to China. “If one power exists in a space, you can be another will step in,” he said. Mexico has indicated its desire to press ahead with TPP with or without the United States but also expressed interest in joining RCEP.

 

INFLUENCERS DISCUSS WHAT THE NEXT FARM BILL WILL LOOK LIKE

Top agricultural influencers met Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to discuss the direction of the 2018 Farm Bill at a forum hosted by the Farm Foundation, a non-profit group that works for sound agricultural public policy. The panelists included Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives; Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group; and Daren Bakst, an agricultural research policy fellow at the Heritage Foundation. Opinions varied on the next Farm Bill – from farm subsidies to government regulation. Faber voiced concern about farm conservation and stewardship practices and said that voluntary incentives alone are not working. He would like to see requirements for farmers to show basic conservation in return for subsidies and believes the key to safer food and water is through incentives and clearer regulation. Bakst sees a need for federal intervention to be passed on to state and local levels to ease regulatory burdens, specifically in the case of water conservation. On subsidies, he believes farmers currently are insulated from market forces, shallow crop loss coverage has distorted farmers’ planting decisions, which might harm stewardship judgement, and subsidies should only cover deep crop losses for the market to hold more power. Bakst believes the nutrition title of the Farm Bill and the other titles (as a whole) can be addressed and passed individually to achieve more reforms. Conner reminded the panel that is it quite early to begin talks on the 2018 Farm Bill, considering that some of the 2014 Farm Bill provisions have yet to be implemented. He noted that it is unusual for a bill to be drafted in a period of low and declining farm income. He believes the “success of the Farm Bill depends on our ability to tap into that grassroots populism” that elected the Trump administration. Conner stressed the importance of getting the bill passed on time to minimize the amount of uncertainty for lenders and farmers. He was optimistic about the bill being farmer-friendly with key players in the House and Senate.

 

NPPC PARTICIPATES IN CODEX MEETING ON ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE

The Physical Working Group on Antimicrobial Resistance of the U.N.’s Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international food-safety standards-setting body, this week met in London to develop proposal documents laying out the purpose and scope for two projects of interest to the U.S. livestock industry. NPPC Chief Veterinarian Dr. Liz Wagstrom attended as an expert, participating through the observer status of the International Meat Secretariat, a non-profit association that brings together meat and livestock organizations. One project aims to update the Codex Code of Practice to Minimize and Contain Antimicrobial Resistance, while the second will develop Guidance on Integrated Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance. In July, the proposals will be considered for advancement by the Codex Commission. NPPC works closely with the U.S. government to provide technical support for Codex issues affecting the U.S. pork industry. The pork industry supports studies and research on the epidemiology of antimicrobial resistance, as well as research on identifying alternative products or practices that will help minimize the need for antibiotics in pork production.

 

NEW ZEALAND, CHINA TO UPGRADE FREE TRADE AGREEMENT

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key recently announced the launch of New Zealand and China’s negotiations to upgrade their free trade agreement (FTA). New Zealand was the first developed country to conclude an FTA with China and will be the first to launch an FTA upgrade. “It has been eight years since our FTA with China came into force, and it has exceeded all expectations,” said Key. “It has an enviable record and showcases to the world the importance of trade liberalization. The upgrade will be an opportunity to deepen and broaden our comprehensive strategic partnership.” The first round of negotiations on the upgrade will begin in 2017 and will focus on addressing technical barriers to trade, customs procedures, cooperation and trade facilitation, rules of origin, services, environmental cooperation and newer areas such as competition policy and e-commerce.