For the Week Ending February 24, 2017

February 24, 2017

NPPC TESTIFIES AT FARM BILL HEARING

Michael Springer, a third-generation crop and hog farmer from southeastern Kansas, Thursday testified on behalf of NPPC on the 2018 Farm Bill at a field hearing held by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Among other provisions, NPPC wants lawmakers to include in the next Farm Bill:

  • Authorization and funding for an FMD vaccine bank.
  • Funding for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, which conducts diagnostics on animal diseases, and for grants to states for disease surveillance.
  • An increase in funding for agricultural research to ensure that the U.S. livestock industry maintains its competitiveness in the global marketplace.
  • Funding levels that sustain the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program, which support U.S. exports.
  • Funding levels maintained for conservation programs.

In written testimony presented to the committee, which held its first in a series of field hearings at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., NPPC urged Congress and the Trump administration to pursue in the 2018 Farm Bill “policies and regulations that support the U.S. pork industry rather than hinder its ability to continue producing safe, lean and nutritious pork and pork products for the global marketplace.”

 

NO ADDITIONAL CUTS TO FARM, FOOD PROGRAMS, SAY GROUPS

More than 500 agricultural, conservation, food and nutrition-assistance organizations, including NPPC and 13 state pork producer associations, urged Senate and House lawmakers on the budget and on the appropriations committees to reject cuts to farm and feeding programs included in the next Farm Bill. The groups pointed out in a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the committees that the 2014 Farm Bill included significant cuts, which were estimated to contribute $23 billion to deficit reduction over 10 years. The cuts, they said, resulted from “hard choices” made to reform and reduce the farm safety net, conservation initiatives and nutrition assistance. “With the agriculture and rural economy struggling, households across the country struggling to meet their basic needs for nutrition, and farm income down 46 percent from only three years ago, it would be perilous to hinder development and passage of the 2018 Farm Bill with further cuts,” said the organizations.

 

GROUPS ASK TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TO FILL KEY USDA TRADE POSITION

A group of 29 agricultural and food organizations, including NPPC, this week urged the Trump administration to fill a key trade position within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The organizations asked that an Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs be appointed. The position was established in the 2014 Farm Bill, but the Obama administration never filled it. “Such a position will bring unified high-level representation to key trade negotiations with senior, foreign officials and within the Executive Branch,” said the groups in a letter to the president.

 

CANADA, MEXICO WANT TO MAINTAIN TRILATERAL TRADE DEAL WITH U.S.

Canada and Mexico this week indicated they want to keep the trilateral agreement among them and the United States. The Trump administration wants to review the existing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect in January 1994, and the president has made known his preference for bilateral rather than multilateral trade pacts. Canadian and Mexican officials also said tariffs and quotas should not be subject to any renegotiation of NAFTA. In a related matter, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly met this week with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray and Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo in Mexico City to discuss, among other matters, trade. NPPC has said that any redone U.S.-Canada-Mexico trade deal must not disrupt U.S. pork exports to the pork industry’s No. 2 and No. 4 markets.

 

AG TRANSPORTATION COALITION WEIGHS IN ON TRUCK WEIGHTS

The Agriculture Transportation Coalition, which includes NPPC, this week asked Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to update federal standards on weight limits for trucks traveling on Interstate highways. A 1982 law limits truck to 80,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, and a 1991 law froze weights for longer combination vehicles. In a letter to the Department of Transportation secretary, the coalition pledged to “work with your agency to modernize these outdated regulations and increase allowable limits to reach a common sense solution for U.S. agriculture exporters.” It pointed out that agricultural exports, such as hay, frozen meat protein, soybeans and forest products, shipped in ocean containers often “weigh out” and exceed truck weight limits before storage capacity is reached inside the containers. “We support common-sense truck weight limit modernization, whereby the gross vehicle weight is increased on Interstate routes and at critical connector routes at land and sea ports provided that the heavy weight truck configuration meets specific criteria,” the coalition wrote.

 

WTO SAYS RUSSIAN BAN ON EU PORK ‘UNJUST’

The World Trade Organization (WTO) this week said Russian restrictions on European Union pork imports are unjust. In 2014, Russia banned imports of pork from the EU because of outbreaks of African Swine Fever in EU countries that border Russia. The EU filed a complaint with the WTO against the ban, arguing that under international trade rules Russia could import pork from unaffected regions of the EU.

 

MONTHLY COLD STORAGE REPORT RELEASED

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Thursday released its monthly Cold Storage report, containing data on regional and national end-of-January stocks for meats, dairy and produce in public, private and semi-private refrigerated warehouses. Pork supplies in cold storage at the end of January were up 11 percent from the end of December but 16 percent lower year over year (YoY). Pork belly stocks were 22 percent lower from last month and down 77 percent YoY – a record low for the end of January since USDA began collecting the data in 1957. For more economic analysis from NPPC, e-mail Dustin Baker, Deputy Director of Economics and Domestic Production, at bakerd@nppc.org.

 

WHAT’S AHEAD

HOUSE FARM BILL HEARINGS SET FOR NEXT WEEK

The House Committee on Agriculture continues preparations for writing the 2018 Farm Bill, holding two subcommittee hearings next week. The Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry will examine conservation policy, and the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture will look at international market development. Both hearings are scheduled for next Tuesday.