For the Week Ending January 23, 2009

January 23, 2009

Washington, January 23, 2009 

NPPC SUES EPA OVER EMISSIONS REPORTING RULE

NPPC Monday filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to require livestock farms to file reports under the Environmental Protection and Community Right To Know Act (EPCRA). NPPC also is alleging that EPA violated the due process rights of farmers by failing to develop an adequate system to accept the reports, making compliance with the law impossible. Under a rulemaking issued Dec. 18, EPA decided that large livestock farms would be required to file mandatory reports on air emissions by first making phone calls to their state and local emergency response authorities, then by filing a written notification of emissions estimates. Farms that fail to comply will face penalties of $25,000 per day. The rule went into effect Jan. 20, 2009, the first day of the Obama administration. EPA complicated matters by telling state officials not to accept reports and provided on its Web site false and out-of-date information on filing reports. Additionally, the agency did not issue guidance for complying with the rule until 4:30 p.m. Jan. 16 – the last business day before the filing deadline – giving America’s 67,000 pork producers and hundreds of thousands of other livestock farmers only 30 minutes to receive, read and interpret the guidance and to develop and file the appropriate emissions report. In the lawsuit it filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, NPPC is challenging EPA’s decision to exclude livestock operations from the EPCRA agriculture exemption and asking the court to enjoin EPA from enforcing the rule until the agency develops a system that will allow producers to comply.

REGULATORY REVIEW ORDER MAY PUT SOME RULES ON HOLD

A number of agriculture-related regulations, including one to implement the Mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling law, a USDA rule on the National Animal Identification System and ones related to various 2008 Farm Bill provisions, could be put on hold pending a review of them by the newly installed Obama administration. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel issued a memorandum to all federal agencies that directed them to consider extending for 60 days the effective date of regulations that have been published but have not yet taken effect “for purposes of reviewing questions of law and policy raised by those regulations.” In such a case, a notice-and-comment period of 30 days would be reopened. Not effective but published in mid-January issues of the Federal Register are rules making changes to the NAIS and for implementing MCOOL, which is set to take effect March 16.

HOUSE COMMITTEE MAY CONSIDER BILL TO OVERHAUL FDA

The House Energy and Commerce Committee may soon consider legislation to enhance the Food and Drug Administration’s power to police food, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Earlier this month, a group of FDA scientists wrote to President Obama’s transition team claiming that FDA administrators interfere with the medical-device review process to push through approvals based on faulty and unethical evidence. Impetus for legislation came this week from the Government Accountability Office, which added FDA to its “high-risk” list for its inability to oversee medical product safety. GAO has issued numerous reports along with other groups, including FDA’s own Science Board, on the agency’s inability to protect the nation’s food and drug supplies as well as medical devices.

VILSACK CONFIRMED AS AG SECRETARY

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, D, this week was confirmed by the Senate to be the next Secretary of Agriculture. During the Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, Vilsack said he would work with Congress to implement the 2008 Farm Bill. He said farm programs could serve as an engine of economic growth and that USDA could help create jobs in biofuels and nutrition programs.

EPA ADMINISTRATOR, CEQ CHAIR CONFIRMED

The Senate Thursday confirmed former New Jersey environmental chief Lisa Jackson as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Jackson’s nomination was confirmed by voice vote as was the same day the nomination of Nancy Sutley, Obama’s pick to chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

AG SUBCOMMITTEE RANKING MEMBERS NAMED

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee this week named the top Republicans for each of the panel’s subcommittees. They are:

  • Bob Goodlatte, Va.: Conservation, Credit, Energy, and Research.
  • Jerry Moran, Kan.: General Farm Commodities and Risk Management.
  • Randy Neugebauer, Texas: Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry.
  • K. Michael Conaway, Texas: Specialty Crops, Rural Development, and Foreign Agriculture.
  • Jeff Fortenberry, Neb.: Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry.
  • Jean Schmidt, Ohio: Horticulture and Organic Agriculture.

WHAT’S AHEAD

NPPC, NATIONAL PORK BOARD ANNUAL MEETING MARCH 5-7

NPPC and the National Pork Board will hold their 2009 annual meeting March 5-7 in Dallas. For more information on the meeting, call (515) 278-8012. Media inquiries should be directed to Dave Warner at (202) 347-3600; for media registration, visit http://www.pork.org/documents/News/2009MediaForumRegForm.pdf.