For the Week Ending June 26, 2020

June 26, 2020

NPPC: LEGISLATIVE RELIEF URGENTLY NEEDED FOR PORK PRODUCERS
NPPC’s top priority is a new COVID congressional relief package that includes much-needed financial assistance to U.S. pork producers in crisis. Following House-passed legislation that includes provisions very favorable for hog farmers and other livestock agriculture sectors, NPPC is now urging the Senate to introduce companion legislation that includes these provisions. Specifically, NPPC is advocating for these measures: 1) compensation for euthanized or donated livestock that can’t be processed into the food supply due to COVID-related packing plant capacity reductions; 2) expanded direct payments—without payment limitations—to livestock farmers who have suffered severe losses as COVID-related market disruptions have caused the value of their livestock to plummet; 3) increased funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories, which have been tapped to perform COVID-19 testing during this human health emergency; and 4) mental health assistance for our farmers who have faced a challenging unprecedented crisis. NPPC’s legislative relations team is in ongoing dialogue with Senate offices, which recesses next week for the Independence Day holiday and reconvenes on July 20. 

NPPC SIGNALS ALARM ABOUT AGRICULTURE INSPECTION FUNDING SHORTFALL 
NPPC is leading a coalition of agriculture, trade and related groups to highlight the massive COVID-19-related funding shortfall for the Agricultural Quarantine Inspection (AQI), which plays a critical role in protecting U.S. agriculture and the environment from plant and animal pests and diseases. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) collects the AQI user fees that pay for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture inspections. These fees have fallen off dramatically due to the impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic on international travel and cargo shipments. As user fee collections are not expected to rebound for the foreseeable future, it is estimated that APHIS’ AQI user fee reserve will only last through the end of FY 2020 and that FY 2021 funding will be short approximately $630 million. To ensure the country is able to respond to animal health threats, such as African swine fever, NPPC is leading efforts to garner congressional support to ensure these vital agricultural inspections are fully funded and U.S. agriculture is protected.

USDA REPORT FLAGS CONCERN WITH WORKER SAFETY DATA IN NEW SWINE INSPECTION SYSTEM
On Thursday, USDA’s Inspector General issued a report on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service’s (FSIS) New Swine Inspection System (NSIS), which went into effect in October 2019. The report concluded that FSIS didn’t fully disclose sources for its analysis on how the rule would affect worker safety. NSIS is a voluntary program that is designed to increase efficiency and effectiveness of the federal inspection process and to provide more flexibility for adopting new food-safety technologies. In its response, FSIS stated that the worker safety analysis was not used as a basis for the NSIS rulemaking, and the agency feels the inspector general has placed distorted emphasis on minor omissions in the NSIS proposal text, including a website citation and a typo in a table. The response also reinforced the responsibility that Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), not FSIS, holds for regulating employee safety. 

ADMINISTRATION EXPECTED TO ANNOUNCE PLANS TO LEVY TARIFF ON CANADIAN ALUMINUM
Media reports say the Trump administration will announce plans to levy a 10% tariff on imports of Canadian aluminum if the country does not impose quotas to slow its aluminum exports to the United States. This is ahead of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, set to go into effect on July 1. In related news, earlier this week the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the administration’s 25 percent tariffs on foreign steel, which have been in place since March 2018. The decision ends the legal challenge and leaves the duties in place on imports from Europe, China and other countries. Last year, the Trump administration agreed to remove the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and Mexico. Both countries subsequently retaliated against a host of U.S. products. The administration’s removal of those steel tariffs led to congressional approval of the USMCA trade agreement, ensuring zero-tariff pork trade in North America. 

NPPC URGES USTR TO REMOVE SOUTH AFRICA, NIGERIA AGOA BENEFITS 
On Wednesday, NPPC submitted comments to the U.S. Trade Representative on the eligibility of sub-Saharan African nations to receive Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) benefits. “NPPC supports the objectives of AGOA to expand U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa, to stimulate economic growth, to encourage economic integration, and to facilitate sub-Saharan Africa’s integration into the global economy. NPPC also supports AGOA’s trade preferences that allow those eligible countries to enter the U.S. market duty-free,” NPPC wrote. However, NPPC is calling for AGOA benefits to both South Africa and Nigeria to be removed. As NPPC explained, among issues preventing the United States from gaining fair access to the South African pork market is a restriction on pork cuts allowed for importation due to concerns related to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome. This restriction appears to be inconsistent with current international standards, NPPC wrote. “Although South Africa is pleased to receive $879 million in benefits from the U.S. preferential trade program, it remains unwilling to extend even customary equitable treatment to imports of pork from the United States. Accordingly, NPPC calls for the removal of South Africa’s eligibility for AGOA benefits.” NPPC also called for the removal of Nigeria’s AGOA benefits. The United States currently has no access for meat or poultry products in Nigeria. “Nigeria’s no-access policy for U.S. meat and poultry is non-science based. For that reason, we call for the removal of Nigeria’s eligibility for AGOA benefits,” NPPC wrote. Read the full NPPC comments here

NPPC SUPPORTS BILL HELPING FARMERS PARTICIPATE IN CARBON MARKETS
On Wednesday, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act, which would create a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help the agriculture sector gain access to revenue from carbon credit offset markets. NPPC strongly supports the bill. “U.S. pork producers, who have been at the forefront of environmental sustainability, are committed to the long-term protection of our country’s natural resources,” said NPPC President Howard “AV” Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin. “Thanks to continuous on-farm improvements in nutrition, genetics and overall pig care, U.S. pork producers are doing more with less. This bipartisan effort will help give the private sector the standards and certifications needed to recognize and reward the important work being done by U.S. hog farmers to reduce our carbon footprint.” A copy of NPPC’s press release can be viewed here. To learn more about U.S. pork’s environmental efforts, click here.

USDA’S APHIS LAUNCHING PILOT PROJECT TO DEVELOP ASF, CSF CERTIFICATION PROGRAM
This week, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced it is launching a pilot project with Iowa State University to develop a certification program for high-consequence swine diseases. Specifically, APHIS will develop and implement a pilot African swine fever (ASF)-Classical Swine Fever (CSF)-Monitored Certification Program, modeled after the basic tenets of the National Poultry Improvement Plan program for U.S. commercial poultry operations. Both ASF and CSF pose tremendous threats to the pork industry if detected in the United States. When implemented, the pilot will provide a forum for state and federal agencies, diagnostic laboratories and industry stakeholders to collaborate directly to establish regulatory and diagnostic priorities, creating a more efficient and engaged process and fostering greater engagement in national swine disease control efforts. U.S. pork producers and harvest facilities in participating states that meet specified program requirements will be able to enroll in the program on a voluntary basis. NPPC supports efforts by APHIS and other agencies to ensure ASF and other animal diseases don’t enter the country. Learn more about the pilot project here.