For the Week Ending March 27, 2020

March 27, 2020

CONGRESS PASSES STIMULUS PACKAGE; INCLUDES SUPPORT FOR LIVESTOCK AG

This week, Congress passed its third stimulus package to aid those sectors of the economy impacted by COVID-19. As part of the funding, $14 billion was provided to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corporation to help agriculture, as well as a separate appropriation of $9.5 billion for livestock and specialty crops. “There is nothing more essential than food and water. U.S. pork producers can’t telecommute and remain hard at work to provide pork products to American kitchens. But we have already suffered losses due to COVID 19-related concerns,” said NPPC President Howard “A.V.” Roth, a pork producer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin. NPPC is now focused on making sure this important lifeline is available to all pork producers without payment restrictions. Additionally, NPPC successfully advocated for the stimulus package to include language clarifying that states can issue special permits for overweight vehicles and loads to allow for the efficient movement of pigs, feed and other supplies. Read the full NPPC press release here.  

NPPC ASKS STATE DEPARTMENT FOR HELP IN RESOLVING LABOR VISA SHORTAGE

Access to labor is a high priority for NPPC as COVID-19 threatens to exacerbate U.S. pork’s existing labor shortage. The recent decision by the U.S. Department of State to suspend visa processing in Mexico “has caused great concern” in the U.S. pork industry, NPPC wrote Thursday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The pork industry, a farm sector that operates year-round, uses the H-2A visa program for specialized work, but cannot use the program for most labor needs because of its seasonal limitation. Hog farmers are major users of the TN visa program, which taps labor from Mexico. “Last year, there were only about 21,000 TN visas issued, with agricultural professions only accounting for a portion of that. Although this is a small number compared to the over 200,000 H-2A visas issued, specialized TN professionals with key skills, including animal breeders, animal scientists and veterinarians are critical to the operation of U.S. hog farms,” the letter explained. U.S. pork producers cannot telecommute and are on the front lines of keeping the food supply plentiful and uninterrupted. NPPC reiterated the need for the processing of the TN visas to continue. A copy of the letter is available here.

DOT EXPANDS HOURS OF SERVICE WAIVERS TO INCLUDE FEED DELIVERIES

Thanks to NPPC’s advocacy efforts, this week the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Safety Administration expanded the scope of its nationwide waivers for Hours of Service (HOS) rules to include feed deliveries, as well as raw materials to manufacture disinfectants and other vital cleaning supplies, among other efforts. HOS governs the amount of time commercial truckers can drive their loads and when they are required to rest between drives. Last week, the agency announced HOS waivers to cover livestock haulers. The waivers remain in force until April 12, and could be extended if warranted by the COVID-19 crisis. For more information, click here.  

FDA TEMPORARILY LIFTS VETERINARY REQUIREMENTS TO ACCOUNT FOR TELEMEDICINE

As part of its commitment and response to the coronavirus, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced this week that it plans to temporarily relax certain requirements in order to allow veterinarians to better use telemedicine to address animal health needs during the pandemic. Specifically, for veterinarians that choose to telework in response to COVID-19, the FDA will allow them to examine animals remotely and if warranted, prescribe medication. To learn more about FDA’s decision, click here.  

U.S. PORK INDUSTRY DEVELOPS FARM CRISIS OPERATIONS PLANNING TOOL

NPPC, the Swine Health Information Center, the National Pork Board, and American Association of Swine Veterinarians jointly developed this week a farm crisis operations planning tool to ensure the U.S. pork industry is prepared for any emergency event. “Emergency events such as natural disasters, disease outbreaks, public health emergencies or market disruptions can lead to reduced or suspended access to resources needed to manage and care for pigs. This can force farmers to deviate from their daily standard operating procedures. “In preparation for these emergency events, it is important for farmers to work with their production team, including their herd veterinarian, to establish site- or operation-specific crisis operating plans that help contribute to business continuity. This tool highlights key resources and supplies that may be affected during various states of emergency. It can also be used to facilitate discussion and planning for how to anticipate and implement emergency operation plans before the next state of emergency.” To view a copy of the planning tool, click here.  

NPPC CELEBRATES NATIONAL AG DAY

NPPC stood with U.S. agriculture on Tuesday as we celebrated National Agriculture Day, honoring those workers who are essential to the nation’s food supply. “Today’s celebration to honor our farmers, producers and ranchers couldn’t come at a more important time for our industry,” said NPPC President Howard “A.V.” Roth, a pork producer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin. “As we grapple with the spread of COVID-19 and its impacts on our daily lives, consumers can rest assured that U.S. agriculture will always be there to feed the nation and the globe. The U.S. hog farmers represented by NPPC are committed to keeping American kitchens stocked with affordable, nutritious protein,” he added. To learn more about U.S. pork producer efforts to ensure an uninterrupted supply of pork, click here.  

SENATE APPROVES BRASHEARS NOMINATION AT FSIS

On Monday, the Senate confirmed Dr. Mindy Brashears as under secretary of food safety for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Her nomination was announced in 2018, and she was most recently deputy under secretary of food safety for the agency. NPPC recently joined other agriculture groups in urging Senate leadership to swiftly vote on her nomination. 

WTO MEMBERS AGREE TO INTERIM TRADE DISPUTE RESOLUTION

On Friday, the European Union and 15 other members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) struck an interim agreement to allow them to bring appeals and resolve trade disputes among themselves. WTO’s appellate body stopped functioning in December 2019. Today’s move essentially isolates the United States, which had blocked the selection of judges to the WTO appellate body and had not agreed to reform proposals.