For the Week Ending March 5, 2010

March 5, 2010

Washington, D.C., March 5, 2010 

RUSSIA TO RE-OPEN MARKET TO U.S. PORK

The United States and Russia have reached an agreement to re-open the Russian market to U.S. pork and pork products, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today. By the end of last year, Russia had delisted nearly all U.S. pork facilities, prohibiting them from shipping pork to Russia. USDA and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative had been in negotiations with the Russian Veterinary Service since December 2009. The negotiations led to the development of a new veterinary certificate to ensure that pork exports from the United States meet specific Russian microbiological and tetracycline-group antibiotic residue requirements. The next step is for U.S. plants that want to export to Russia to apply for approval with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. AMS, in collaboration with the Food Safety and Inspection Service, has developed an Export Verification (EV) program for pork to Russia to address specific product requirements. Russia imported $289 million worth of U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports last year. NPPC worked with USDA and USTR in urging Russia to re-open its market to U.S. pork.

NPPC URGES PASSAGE OF PENDING FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS

NPPC this week joined an ad hoc coalition of food, feed and agricultural entities in urging Congress to promptly pass several pending free trade agreements, pointing out that exports generate 8,000 U.S. jobs for every $1 billion of agricultural goods exported. Trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea are awaiting congressional approval. Under each pact, many U.S. food and agricultural products would become eligible for duty-free treatment once the agreement is implemented and nearly all would receive duty-free treatment over specified phase-in periods. In a letter signed by 57 companies and organizations [[[[[[[[[pdffffff]]]]]]]]], the coalition – led by NPPC – asked lawmakers to “heed the President’s call to aggressively expand market access opportunities, as our competitors are doing.” Congress must act on the pending agreements soon, said the coalition, because other countries are moving forward on a host of trade deals. South Korea, for example, has concluded, is negotiating or is planning to enter talks on trade agreements with 11 countries, the European Union and blocs representing southeast Asian and South American nations. In addition to adding to the bottom line of producers – U.S. pork producers, for example, would see hog prices rise by $11 a head under the South Korea agreement – the trade pacts would generate thousands of U.S. jobs. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, 2008’s $115.4 billion of U.S. agricultural exports supported 920,000 full-time civilian jobs, including 608,000 non-farm jobs. Those economic benefits, the coalition pointed out, flow not only to rural communities but also to people working in transportation, processing and at ports.

PEW HOLDS BRIEFING ON ALTERNATIVES TO ANTIBIOTIC USE IN FOOD ANIMAL PRODUCTION

The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming hosted a briefing Tuesday for House and Senate staff, discussing antibiotic usage in animal production. Panelists from the hearing included Stephen Jay, MD, professor of Medicine and Public Health at Indiana University School of Medicine; Bill Niman, owner of BN Ranch and founder of Niman Ranch, Inc.; Andrew Carlson, owner and CEO of Central Coast Farms and Fulton Valley Farms; Steve Ells, chairman and CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.; and Linda Boardman, president of Applegate Farms. A segment of the CBS Nightly News story that ran February 9 on antibiotic usage in livestock was played at the hearing. Panelists cited 75 percent of antibiotics being used by industrial farms on healthy animals as a platform to call for passage of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), sponsored by the late Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. Members of the panel argued that many of the antibiotics used on livestock are in the same class as human antibiotics and overuse of them has led to the spread of drug-resistant bacteria in humans. Last week, NPPC participated in Congressional briefings during which Pew’s argument were debunked.

USDA VET BLOWS WHISTLE ON ENFORCEMENT OF SLAUGHTERHOUSES

The House Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing Thursday in response to a Government Accountability Office report that criticized what Chairman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, deemed a lack of reporting and enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. The report suggested U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors have been inconsistent in their reporting of humane handling violations. During the hearing, Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, showed video of an HSUS undercover visit to Bushway Packing Inc., which was shut down last year over alleged inhumane treatment of calves. A USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service veterinarian blew the whistle on the USDA, telling lawmakers at the hearing that USDA officials did not heed his warnings about unsafe slaughterhouses he felt presented public health risks. Members of the panel called for ensuring proper treatment of animals and the safety of the food supply.

USDA AND JUSTICE DEPARTMENT HOLD COMPETITION WORKSHOP IN IOWA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Justice next Friday will hold the first in a series of public workshops on competition issues affecting the agriculture industry in the 21st century and the appropriate role for antitrust and regulatory enforcement in the industry. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Iowa congressional lawmakers Sens. Tom Harkin, D, and Chuck Grassley, R, and Rep. Leonard Boswell, D, and Gov. Chet Culver, D, attorneys general from several states and academics will participate in the first workshop, which will be held in Ankeny, Iowa. Several pork producers have been invited to participate in formal proceedings, including: Chuck Wirtz (Iowa), Todd Wiley (Iowa) and Julie Maschoff (Illinois). A number of pork producers will present comments during the public comment session, including new NPPC President Sam Carney, a producer from Adair, Iowa, and John Weber, president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. Other workshops will be held later in the year in Alabama, Colorado, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin. For complete details on dates, times and topics, click the following link: USDA/DOJ Workshops.

POLL SHOWS PEOPLE DON’T KNOW THE TRUTH ABOUT HSUS

A poll commissioned by the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom and conducted by Opinion Research Corporation, shows 59 percent of those polled believe that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) contributes most of its money to local organizations that care for cats and dogs. However, HSUS does not run a single shelter for dogs or cats. The poll also found that 71 percent of the participants believe HSUS is an umbrella group for America’s local humane societies, and 63 percent think their local humane society is affiliated with HSUS. According to the federal income tax return filed by HSUS for the tax year 2008, less than one-half of 1 percent of the organization’s budget consisted of grants to hands-on pet shelters. The poll sampled the opinions of 1,008 Americans.

WHAT’S AHEAD
SENATE AND HOUSE AGRICULTURE APPROPRIATIONS HEARINGS

The Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing March 9 on President Obama’s proposed fiscal 2011 appropriations for programs and activities under its jurisdiction, including the Child Nutrition program. The same subcommittee in the House will hold a hearing the next day on the president’s fiscal 2011 appropriations.

ACTION ON AGRICULTURE SALES TO CUBA, AG CREDIT BILL

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing March 11 to review current policy concerning U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba. The committee also next week will hold a mark-up on H.R. 3509, a bill to reauthorize state agriculture mediation programs under Title V of the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987.

NPPC WORLD PORK EXPO JUNE 9-11

NPPC’s annual World Pork Expo will be held June 9-11 at the Iowa State fairgrounds in Des Moines. Follow @NPPCWPX on Twitter at http://twitter.com/NPPCWPX for coming announcements and updates on the largest pork industry trade show and exhibition in the world.