For the Week Ending July 17, 2009

July 17, 2009

Washington, July 17, 2009 

NPPC URGES LAWMAKERS TO RESOLVE ISSUES WITH FOOD-SAFETY LEGISLATION

While a food-safety bill making its way through the U.S. House largely exempts livestock and poultry farms, U.S. pork producers still have some concerns with the legislation, NPPC told the House Agriculture Committee, which Thursday held a hearing on the measure. In a letter sent Wednesday to all members of the agriculture panel, NPPC and 24 state pork producer associations urged lawmakers to resolve a number of outstanding issues before finalizing the “Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009” (H.R. 2749), including:

· Insert language to better define in the bill the terms “food” and “facility.”

· Clarify the scope of new and expanded power given to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate the grain side of diversified farming operations. Could pig buildings be inspected, for example, if FDA were coming on a diversified farm for a grain food-safety issue?

· Retain the current standard that allows FDA to come on a farm if it has a “reasonable belief” that food is adulterated and presents a threat of “serious adverse health consequences or death” to humans or animals. As written, the bill would change the standard to allow on-farm inspections if food is “thought to be adulterated, misbranded or in violation of H.R. 2749.”

· Eliminate the civil penalties that farmers could be charged for errors in complying with new record-keeping requirements. Under the bill, a diversified pork producer who has a paperwork glitch could be charged up to $1 million per year.

· Allow federal agencies that currently have jurisdiction over agriculture matters to retain their authority rather than have FDA usurp or duplicate it. Under the bill, for example, FDA could quarantine a geographic area where food that presents serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals may have originated. That very broad power far exceeds the authority currently granted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which already can quarantine live animals and has a preventive inspection system to keep adulterated meat from entering the food supply.

· Ensure that provisions in the bill would not invite retaliation from U.S. trading partners. (The House Ways and Means Committee has some concerns.)

The organizations also urge lawmakers to oppose any amendments that would ban certain antibiotics used in livestock production. Earlier this week, the House Rules Committee held a hearing on the “Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009” (H.R. 1549), which would ban animal health products that are used to prevent and control diseases. Farmers only would be allowed to use animal health products that treat diseases.

 

RULES COMMITTEE HOLDS ‘UNUSUAL’ HEARING ON BILL TO RESTRICT ANTIBIOTIC USE

The House Rules Committee Monday held a hearing on the “Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009” (H.R. 1549), which would ban from use in livestock certain animal health products. The bill – and a companion measure (S. 619) in the Senate – calls for all “critical antimicrobial animal drugs” to go through a second U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval process within two years of enactment of the legislation. Currently to win approval, an animal drug maker must demonstrate that a product is effective and safe for animals and for the environment. FDA also must determine that new antibiotics for food animals will not harm human health. H.R. 1549 would prohibit the use of animal antibiotics for what the bill terms “non-therapeutic” reasons, meaning antibiotics used to prevent or control diseases would be outlawed. NPPC strongly opposes restrictions on livestock antibiotics and is urging lawmakers to vote against H.R. 1549 and S. 619. The Rules Committee hearing was unusual. The panel exists primarily to govern the length and terms of floor debate on bills, not to hear testimony on the specifics of legislation. Another unusual – and undemocratic – aspect of the hearing was the lineup of witnesses. While H.R. 1549 would restrict livestock producers’ ability to use certain antibiotics, no representative from the livestock industry and no veterinarian were asked to testify. Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, was the only witness who testified in opposition to the bill, which could get tacked on to food-safety or health-care reform legislation.

 

NOMINEE TO HEAD REGULATORY REVIEW OFFICE SET TO BE CONFIRMED

President Obama’s pick to head the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), Harvard Law School professor Cass Sunstein, can move forward now that Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., has lifted a hold on the nominee. Chambliss, the ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, cited as the reason for his hold a 2002 article in which Sunstein urged “extensive regulation of the use of animals in entertainment, scientific experiments, and agriculture.” Sunstein also has said that “animals should be permitted to bring suit, with human beings as their representatives.” The Farm Animal Welfare Coalition, of which NPPC is a member, recently met with Sunstein to discuss his animal welfare writings and his views on regulations and environmental policy. The nominee mostly allayed the group’s – and Chambliss’s – concerns. OIRA reviews all regulations proposed by federal agencies.

 

TYSON TO CUT SOW HERD

Tyson Foods Wednesday said it would cut 20,000 of it 70,000 sows over the next 10 weeks. The reduction is the second announced in recent weeks. Smithfield Foods in June said it would cut 27,000 sows, primarily from the Texas panhandle operations that it acquired from Premium Standard Farms. That cut comes on top of a 100,000-sow reduction last year. The Tyson cuts will be in Arkansas and Missouri and will mean a loss of 76 jobs. According to a company statement, the reduction is being made because “the sale of feeder and weaned pigs has slowed because of unfavorable economic conditions such as high grain costs, lack of available capital and a reduction in pork demand.”

 

RUSSIA’S BAN ON U.S. PORK NOW APPLIES ONLY TO FLORIDA

Russia today said it would lift a ban on live pigs and raw pork imports from Wisconsin, leaving Florida as the only state from which pork cannot be shipped to the country. Russia also lifted a ban on live pigs and pork from Canada’s Ontario province effective July 18. Earlier this week, Russia rescinded bans on pork products from New York and Utah after last week lifting them from Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas. The bans, which at one time applied to 13 states, were put in place in response to the H1N1 flu outbreak even though flu viruses cannot be transmitted through handling or consuming pork. NPPC is continuing to work with USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to get a number of other countries, including China, to rescind their bans on imported U.S. pork products.

 

CANADIAN PORK INDUSTRY BAILOUT WOULD HURT U.S. PORK PRODUCERS

The Canadian Pork Council wants the Canadian government to pump $800 million into the country’s pork industry in an effort to save the livelihoods of 42,000 producers, a move that would adversely affect the U.S. pork industry. NPPC is extremely concerned about such a bailout, which, if enacted, would put downward pressure on U.S. live hog prices and shift financial pain to U.S. producers, who have lost an average of $20 per hog since October 2007. Canada has a long history of subsidizing its pork producers. NPPC is keeping all options open to address the issue, and its board of directors will be meeting soon to discuss the matter.

 

WHAT’S AHEAD

 

ANTIBIOTICS BAN MAY BE TACKED ON TO FOOD-SAFETY, HEALTH CARE BILLS

NPPC is urging House lawmakers to oppose any effort to tack the “Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009” (H.R. 1549) on to any legislation, including a food-safety bill and health-care reform legislation, both of which could be considered on the House floor before Congress begins its August recess. H.R. 1549 would ban animal health products used for what the bill terms “non-therapeutic” reasons, meaning antibiotics used to prevent or control diseases.