For the Week Ending February 16, 2018

February 16, 2018

TRUMP HINTS HE’LL IMPOSE TARIFFS ON STEEL IMPORTS

President Trump this week dismissed concerns that imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports would hurt the U.S. economy. The duties would be imposed as a national security measure, according to the administration, which has raised concerns about U.S. reliance on imported steel for defense systems. NPPC is worried that import tariffs on the metals could prompt retaliatory duties on U.S. exports, including agricultural products. Last July, NPPC and 17 other agricultural groups in a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urged the administration not to impose the tariffs. Ross today made public an anticipated report recommending tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Trump must make a decision by April 15 on whether to invoke a 1962 trade law that allows the president to restrict imports that threaten national security. In a White House meeting this week, several Republican lawmakers cautioned him about the potential negative consequences of the tariffs.

 

NPPC URGES SENATE TO MOVE ON AGRICULTURE NOMINEES

NPPC this week urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to schedule confirmation votes on four long-languishing Trump administration nominees for positions important to U.S. pork producers and American agriculture. In a letter to the two leaders, NPPC asked the Senate to fulfill its “vital role in ensuring that our federal agencies are adequately staffed by moving quickly to schedule votes and confirm” Gregg Doud as chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Bill Northey as undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Stephen Vaden as USDA’s general counsel and Andrew Wheeler as deputy administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, NPPC is urging the Senate to confirm Dawn Stump as commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

 

FARM ACT INTRODUCED TO EXEMPT FARMS FROM EMISSIONS REPORTING

Legislation to restore the farm exemption for reporting manure emissions to the U.S. Coast Guard was introduced this week under the leadership of Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., Joe Donnelly D-Ind., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Tom Carper, D-Del. The bipartisan “Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act,” S. 2421, provides a solution for a misguided decision by a U.S. Court of Appeals last April that eliminated the existing farm exemption from reporting “hazardous” emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). The appeals court ruling would have forced over 100,000 farmers to file emissions reports with the Coast Guard’s National Response Center, which alerts first responders about hazardous situations, such as chemical spills and leaks. A 2008 U.S. Environmental Protection agency rule exempted farmers from reporting under CERCLA because routine farm emissions wouldn’t constitute hazards. Earlier this month, in a decision strongly supported by NPPC, the Court of Appeals granted EPA’s motion for another extension of the farm emissions reporting deadline until May 1. NPPC is urging Congress to pass the FARM Act and commends the bipartisan legislative effort.

 

NPPC ASKS LAWMAKERS TO ADDRESS AGRICULTURE’S LABOR SHORTAGE

NPPC along with other agricultural organizations this week urged Congress to take up much-needed visa reform to address agriculture’s labor shortage as lawmakers consider immigration and border security proposals. Letters sent by the groups asked Senate and House leadership to include the “Securing America’s Future Act of 2018” (H.R. 4760), introduced in January by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., in immigration legislation. The act would create an H-2C visa program, allowing non-seasonal agriculture workers to remain in the United States for up to three years. The lack of a consistent, viable labor pool threatens to undermine livestock agriculture’s commitment to the highest standards of animal care.

 

NPPC URGES LAWMAKERS TO REJECT PROPOSED USDA FSIS USER FEES

In a letter to the House and Senate committees on agriculture and on appropriations, NPPC, along with other agriculture groups, urged lawmakers to reject authorization of industry fees to fund mandatory functions of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). The fees, representing a $660 million cost to the agriculture industry, were proposed in the Trump administration’s budget plan to cover federally mandated food safety inspection programs for meat, poultry and egg products. Requiring the industry to fund these activities would remove agency incentive to strive for cost efficiency and other program improvements.

 

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PROPOSES NEW INFRASTRUCTURE PLAN

The Trump administration this week revealed its outline for improving the nation’s highways, bridges, waterways, railways and rural infrastructure. The $200 billion federal spending proposal is designed to stimulate $1.5 trillion in total infrastructure investments. Allocating $50 billion to state and local governments in the form of block grants, the plan calls for 25 percent of total funds to be directed toward revitalizing rural America, including expanded rural broadband access. The plan also proposes establishing a “One Agency, One Review” structure for the environmental review process conducted prior to the start of new construction projects. Intended to minimize the duplication of reports and analyses of environmental impact, the proposal would establish a 21-month deadline for lead agencies to complete their review. NPPC applauds the administration’s commitment to rebuild American infrastructure and rural communities, and will continue to work with the administration and Congress on implementing legislation.

 

SENATE COMMITTEE LOOKS TO ADVANCE ADUFA REAUTHORIZATION

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions this week conducted a hearing on the reauthorization of the Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA) and the Animal Generic Drug User Fee Agreements (AGDUFA). Set to expire in October, both grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration permission to collect fees from the makers of new animal drugs, including generic animal drugs, which are used to support the agency’s approval and market introduction programs. Dr. Steven Solomon, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, testified to the committee that the laws have eliminated the backlog of requests for approving new animal drugs and increased the efficiency of FDA’s approval process. Last week, committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-Wash., released a draft of bipartisan legislation for reauthorizing ADUFA and AGDUFA, which includes a requirement that all requests for new animal drugs be submitted electronically beginning Oct. 1. NPPC supports the reauthorization of ADUFA and AGDUFA, which are crucial for ensuring that animal health, human health and food safety are protected. Failure to renew the laws by the deadline will result in a major disruption for the livestock production industry.

 

HOGS ON THE HILL CALLS FOR TRADE RECIPROCITY WITH THAILAND

The latest Hogs on the Hill (HOTH) blog post, which can be viewed here, addresses the importance of strengthening trade reciprocity requirements as Congress looks to reauthorize the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program. The GSP program provides duty-free treatment to select goods imported into the United States. The new GSP program would require the U.S. Trade Representative to report annually on the extent to which a country provides “equitable and reasonable access to its markets” for U.S. exports before renewing its GSP eligibility. HOTH points out that Thailand, a current beneficiary of the program, imposes non-tariff barriers that limit U.S. products allowed into the country and that act as a de facto ban on others, including U.S. pork. It suggests that Thailand’s GSP eligibility could be in jeopardy under the new program.

 

WHAT’S AHEAD

STATE PORK ASSOCIATION ANNUAL MEETINGS ROLL ON

Throughout February, many state pork associations will host their annual meetings. For more on the meetings, visit NPPC’s website here.

 

SEVENTH ROUND OF NAFTA RENEGOTIATION TALKS APPROACHING

Trade negotiators from the United States, Canada and Mexico will meet Feb. 25-March 5 in Mexico City for the seventh round of renegotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

 

NATIONAL PORK INDUSTRY FORUM SET

The National Pork Industry Forum will be in held in Kansas City, Mo., Feb. 28 to March 2. NPPC will also conduct its annual meeting, electing new officers and members to its board of directors.