For the Week Ending June 30, 2017
June 30, 2017
EPA PROPOSES REGULATION TO REPEAL ‘WOTUS’ RULE
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week announced it will propose a rule to rescind a controversial Clean Water Act regulation that gave the government broad jurisdiction over land and water. The proposal – expected to be published in the Federal Register in the coming days – will repeal the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which broadened the EPA’s jurisdiction over “navigable” waters to include, among other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. It also covered lands adjacent to such waters. The plan to repeal WOTUS was hailed by NPPC as “great news for America’s pork producers.” NPPC played a leading role in representing the agricultural community’s opposition to the WOTUS rule, producing maps showing the extent of the lands affected by the regulation. (EPA’s jurisdiction in Missouri, for example, would have increased to cover 77 percent of the state under the rule.) NPPC also led the legal efforts against the rule, filing suit in a U.S. District Court and presenting a brief to a U.S. Court of Appeals. The latter halted implementation of the WOTUS rule shortly after its Aug. 28, 2015, effective date. Once the proposed repeal rule is published, it will be subject to a public comment period.
USTR PUBLIC HEARINGS ON NAFTA HELD; CHINA EXPRESSES INTEREST IN FTA WITH MEXICO
The Office of U.S. Trade Representative this week held three days of public hearings on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations. Witnesses included many agriculture representatives, who placed emphasis on ensuring that NAFTA renegotiations do not disrupt agricultural trade with Canada and Mexico. NPPC reinforced that message in comments previously submitted to USTR. You can read the comments here. NAFTA talks are expected to begin as early as Aug. 16. In the meantime, a statement this week by Chinese Ambassador to Mexico, Qiu Xiaoqi, served as a reminder about the importance of removing uncertainty surrounding the NAFTA renegotiation. At an event in Mexico City, he said, “If we negotiate a free trade agreement [with Mexico], this will greatly favor trade exchanges between our two countries. There is no difficulty from China’s side.”
APPROPORIATIONS COMMITTEEE ROLLS OUT FISCAL 2018 AGRICULTURE FUNDING BILL
The House Appropriations Committee this week released the fiscal 2018 Agriculture Appropriations bill. The legislation funds agricultural and food programs and services. With $20 billion in discretionary funding, $876 million less than fiscal 2017 funding, the legislation focuses on rural development, food and drug safety maintenance and advancement, nutrition accessibility for those in need and regulatory rollback. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., says, “The safety and accessibility of our nation’s food and drug supply is of utmost importance to our economy, our quality of life, and – given the great benefit of producing necessities here at home – our national security.” Also this week, the bill advanced through the committee’s Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, as lawmakers found reassurance that USDA budget cuts were not as steep as President Trump proposed.
FILL KEY USDA POSTS, AGRICULTURAL GROUPS URGE TRUMP
NPPC this week joined 16 other agricultural organizations in urging the White House to “quickly” fill key position in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In a letter sent Tuesday to President Trump, the groups pointed out that, with a struggling rural economy – which has seen a 55 percent decrease in personal income over the last three years – agriculture needs leaders and decision makers in place at the agency. “The absence of high-ranking officials at USDA puts our farmers and ranchers at a disadvantage,” the organizations wrote. [Click here to read the letter.]
HOG AND PIG NUMBERS UP, ACCORDING TO USDA QUARTERLY REPORT
The hogs and pigs inventory as of June 1 was up 3 percent over June 1, 2016, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report, which was released Thursday. The U.S. inventory was 71.7 million head, with 65.6 million of those animals market hogs. The inventory was slightly higher than expected, while the breeding inventory, market hog inventory and March-May 2017 pig crop numbers were all in line with pre-report estimates. The next Quarterly Hogs and Pigs report will be released Sept. 28. [Click here to read the report.]
NPPC PARTICIPATES IN WORKSHOP ON ANIMAL BIOTECHNOLOGY
The Third International Workshop for Regulation of Animal Biotechnology, hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agriculture Service and Virginia Tech University, took place this week, uniting regulatory and policy officials, animal biotechnology scientists and other livestock industry professionals. With more than 40 countries present, the event was aimed at enhancing the understanding of animal biotechnology adoption and regulation on a global scale while focusing on risk communication. NPPC’s Dr. Dan Kovich, deputy director of science and technology, presented an overview of the pig animal breeding system and participated in a panel on regulatory actions to encourage innovation in livestock genetics. NPPC deputy director of international trade policy Courtney Knupp also participated in a panel addressing developer best practices and market communications for these technologies.
AGRO-TERRORISM BILL EXPECTED TO BE SIGNED BY PRESIDENT
Congress sent H.R. 1238, “Securing our Agriculture and Food Act,” to the White House this week for President Trump’s signature. The legislation calls for coordinating federal efforts to defend the U.S. agriculture and veterinary systems from terrorism, including the intentional introduction of a foreign animal disease such as Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD). The bill was originally proposed by Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, after the 2015 outbreak of avian influenza that decimated Iowa’s bird population; he reintroduced the measure earlier this year. NPPC continues to advocate for federal funding for an FMD vaccine bank as its 2018 Farm Bill priority.
SWINE VETERINARIAN FLY-IN
On July 11-12, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians will have its annual Washington, D.C., legislative fly-in. The event brings swine veterinarians from across the country to Capitol Hill, where they discuss their priority issues with congressional lawmakers. The veterinarians are expected to urge lawmakers to include in the 2018 Farm Bill language establishing a vaccine bank to address a potential Foot-and-Mouth Disease outbreak.
AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE TO HOST FARM BILL LISTENING SESSION
The House Committee on Agriculture on July 31 will host a Farm Bill listening session to gather insight on priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill from agriculture industry professionals. The session, the second in a series that will take place over the coming months, will be held at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas, from noon to 4 p.m.