For the Week Ending June 28, 2019

June 28, 2019


NPPC LAUNCHES ‘KEEP AMERICA FIRST IN AGRICULTURE’ CAMPAIGN ON GENE EDITING
On Tuesday, NPPC launched its “Keep America First in Agriculture” campaign to highlight the importance of establishing a proper regulatory framework for gene editing in American livestock. Gene editing technology, which introduces useful genetic variation into food animal breeding programs, promises significant animal health benefits, including a natural immunity to disease and a reduction in the need for antibiotic use. While countries like Canada, Brazil and Argentina are moving quickly on this advancement to gain competitive advantage in the market, the U.S. is running the risk of falling far behind as a result of a regulatory land grab by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Under FDA regulation, gene editing faces an impractical, lengthy and expensive approval process, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs and nearly six percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product. “Gene editing is a huge step forward for America’s farmers, as it offers a powerful new way to combat animal disease,” said Dr. Dan Kovich, NPPC’s deputy director of Science & Technology. “With gene editing, livestock breeders can knock out specific genes that make animals vulnerable to viral infections. Healthier animals benefit both farmers and consumers,” he said. NPPC held a media teleconference on Tuesday with leading researchers, veterinarians, producers and industry experts, and more than 25 reporters attended. To hear an audio recording of the teleconference, click here. To learn more about the campaign, click here and for our “Meat of the Matter” on gene editing, click here

HOTH: PROPOSED SWINE INSPECTION, GENE EDITING OFFER OPPORTUNITIES TO MODERNIZE AND REMAIN COMPETITIVE 
On Thursday, the National Association of Federal Veterinarians (NAFV) announced its support for USDA’s recently proposed New Swine Inspection Service (NSIS), which aims to improve the inspection process by shifting FSIS employees’ responsibilities to focus on inspection duties more directly related to food safety and animal welfare (like plant sanitation and humane handling). In turn, pre-inspection sorting and quality control tasks would be delegated to plant employees on the line. NPPC is a strong supporter of this proposal and as highlighted in our latest Hogs on the Hill blog post, believes it’s part of a continuous effort by USDA to adopt improved plant protocols, while ensuring a safe supply of wholesome American pork. In addition to modernizing via adoption of NSIS, NPPC believes gene editing technology is another tool that can be used to improve animal health and welfare, while reducing the need for antibiotics on American pig farms. 

HOUSE PASSES ‘MINIBUS’ FY 2020 SPENDING BILL WITH FUNDING FOR USDA
On Tuesday, the House passed a $383 billion spending package (H.R. 3055) for FY2020, which included $24.3 billion in funding for Agriculture-FDA. The overall bill, or “minibus,” includes an amendment by Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) that provides $5 million to support the research and development of an African swine fever vaccine at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. The Agriculture-FDA funding bill also includes language by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) that would prevent USDA from finalizing its New Swine Inspection System (NSIS) rule until the agency’s Inspector General reviews data on the proposal. NPPC continues to support the proposed new system, which has been tested and scrutinized for years, and designed to increase efficiency and effectiveness of the federal inspection process. The White House has already said it opposes the minibus, and President Trump’s advisors would recommend a veto. 

SUPREME COURT ISSUES SIGNIFICANT FOIA RULING; DEALS ACTIVISTS A BLOW
Earlier this week, as the U.S. Supreme Court finished up its last term, the Court issued a major ruling protecting the confidentiality of business information from activist groups.  In Food Marketing Institute v Argus Leader, a case involving a newspapers desire to publish commercially sensitive information on how many food stamp purchases various retailers processed, the Supreme Court rejected the previous standard, in place since 1974, that confidential information submitted by businesses to the government was subject to release under FOIA unless its disclosure was likely to lead to “substantial competitive harm.” Rather, in a 6-3 decision, the court adopted the common sense principle that for purposes of FOIA’s confidential business information exemption, a business needs to merely keep the information confidential in the general course of its business to prevent its disclosure under FOIA. This is a significant victory, and builds on NPPC’s prior success in 2016 to protect the privacy of personal information from disclosure under the FOIA statutes. Together, these two rulings will significantly hinder the efforts of anti-agriculture activists like the Human Society of the United States and the Waterkeepers Alliance from using FOIA requests to spy on pork producers.   

AG GROUPS CONTINUE TO PRESS USDA ON LPCP
As one of the leaders of a broad coalition of agricultural groups, NPPC continues to engage key stakeholders on the issues surrounding laboratory-produced cultured protein (LPCP).  NPPC staff has met with USDA personnel to reinforce the pork industry’s concerns about these new products.  Most crucially, NPPC has stressed the need for proper labeling of LPCP, so that consumers are aware of the differences between such products and real pork.  USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is expected to address issues relating to LPCP his fall.  

NPPC SIGNS ONTO LETTER TO STB, URGING CHANGES ON FREIGHT RAIL
NPPC was among groups in the Ag Transportation Working Group that signed a letter to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) on Tuesday, supporting efforts by the agency to modernize its oversight of freight rail rates, fix the process to challenge unreasonable freight rates, and reform the current system of imposing excessively high rail rates. In 2014, agricultural groups petitioned STB to adopt changes to its procedures for challenging unreasonable rail freight rates. Under the current system, a rate review case costs on average $5 million-$10 million or more and takes at least three to five years to litigate. NPPC and others believe those are unreasonable timelines and costs, and evidence that the current system is broken. Especially this year, where we may see some producers facing increase costs for grain as a result of this spring’s unprecedented wet weather, NPPC strongly supports any efforts to reduce artificially inflated costs that producers would face to transport feed for livestock.  

EU-VIETNAM TO SIGN FTA
The European Union-Vietnam free trade agreement (FTA) will be signed on June 30. The trade agreement will eliminate nearly all customs duties on goods traded between the two countries, including pork. US pork exports to Vietnam will be suppressed as a result of this trade agreement.  The growth of the U.S. pork industry depends on international markets where most new demand for pork originates. The Asia-Pacific region is the fastest growing economic region in the world and the United States will lose market share if it does not negotiate preferential market access with Vietnam, Japan and other nations in the region. In related news, after two decades of negotiations between the EU and MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay), a deal has finalized. Agriculture negotiations has been the most contentious issue between the two blocs. 

PANAMA BEGINS GLOBAL SAFEGUARD INVESTIGATION OF PORK
Last month, Panama initiated a global safeguard investigation of pork under the World Trade Organization Safeguard Agreement, filed on behalf of an organization representing hog producers, not packers. The investigation covers fresh, chilled and frozen pork. Imports from all sources are subject to the investigation, but over 90% of imports to Panama come from the U.S. Under the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA), imports of US pork enter duty free, but under a tariff-rate quota (TRQ). The country has the right to impose agricultural safeguard measures if the volume of imports in a particular year is more than 130% of the TRQ. Panama has imposed such measures for the remainder of this year. However, Panama may not impose safeguard measures under the WTO agreement at the same time that it is imposing agricultural safeguard measures under the TPA. Therefore, the earliest that safeguard measures could be imposed as a result of the investigation would be 2020.

NPPC WORKING TO OPEN PORK MARKET IN ECUADOR
NPPC is always working on expanding markets, as U.S. pork is critically dependent on exports. NPPC is working with the governments of the U.S. and Ecuador to expand pork exports. Under the previous administration, the market was very tightly controlled, with virtually no U.S. pork imports permitted. The new Ecuadorian administration seeks closer relations with the U.S., and NPPC is taking the opportunity to work on greater market access.