For the Week Ending May 25, 2018

May 25, 2018

HOUSE MEMBERS CALL FOR END TO THAILAND’S BAN ON PORK

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives this week sent a letter to Virachai Plasai, ambassador of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United States, calling for the removal of restrictions on imports of U.S. farm products, including pork. The bipartisan letter – signed by 44 members and sponsored by Reps. David Young, R-Iowa, and Ron Kind, D-Wis. – points out that if Thailand does not make “significant progress” on removing its import restrictions, the United States may suspend some of its trade benefits. The letter came after the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) last week agreed with a request from NPPC to review Thailand’s eligibility for the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program because of that country’s failure to provide access to its market for U.S. products, including pork. NPPC is urging the Trump administration to withdraw or limit the benefits Thailand receives under the preferential trade program, which gives duty-free treatment to certain goods entering the United States. The program allows for removal of a country’s benefits if it fails to provide the United States “equitable and reasonable access” to its market. To read the House letter, click here.

 

ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS TO ATTEND WORLD PORK EXPO

NPPC this week announced the attendance of Ambassador Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and Greg Ibach, USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, at the 2018 World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa. Under Secretary Ibach and Ambassador Doud will address NPPC investors on June 6 and 7, respectively. NPPC looks forward to hearing from the officials, who play a major role in setting policy and creating export opportunities at a time when U.S. pork’s growth prospects have never been greater.

 

FARM BILL TO RECEIVE SECOND VOTE; MOVEMENT EXPECTED ON IMMIGRATION

The U.S House of Representatives is expected to reconsider the “Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018” (H.R. 2), better known as the Farm Bill, on June 22 after a vote on an immigration bill proposed by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, earlier that week. That measure includes the “Agricultural Guestworker Act” (AG Act), which would create a new visa program – H-2C – that allows non-seasonal agricultural workers to remain in the United States for up to three years. NPPC supports the legislation, which would help address an agricultural labor shortage. The House Farm Bill, which narrowly failed to pass last week, includes several provisions important to U.S. pork producers, including funding for a vaccine bank to deal with a U.S. outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD). The bill calls for first-year mandatory funding of $150 million for the FMD vaccine bank, $70 million in block grants to the states for disease prevention and $30 million for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), which provides disease diagnostic support. For the other years of the five-year Farm Bill, the legislation calls for $30 million in mandatory funding for state block grants and $20 million to be used at the Agriculture secretary’s discretion for the vaccine bank, the NAHLN and the states. NPPC supports the House Farm Bill but is urging lawmakers to extend the first-year funding levels to the other four years of the five-year agriculture blueprint.

 

HOURS OF SERVICE REGULATIONS NEED FLEXIBILITY

Late last week, 30 U.S. senators penned a letter to Raymond Martinez, administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), to express support for increased flexibility within the Department of Transportation’s Hours of Service (HOS) regulations affecting commercial motor vehicles, including livestock haulers. The HOS rules limit commercial truckers to 11 hours of driving time and 14 consecutive hours of on-duty time in any 24-hour period. Once drivers reach that limit, they must pull over and wait 10 hours before driving again. The senators stated in their letter, “It is important that HOS regulations provide for a commonsense framework for drivers, rather than a one-size-fits-all model.” Mike VanMaanen, owner of Eastern Missouri Commission Company, testifying on behalf of the Livestock Marketing Association, reinforced the importance of flexibility at a hearing before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. He emphasized the impracticality of stopping with livestock and the regulations’ limitations in terms of outreach and enforcement. NPPC, which secured a temporary waiver for livestock haulers from a provision of the HOS rules that would have required that they replace paper driving logs with Electronic Logging Devices, is urging the FMCSA to reform the HOS regulations to address the unique challenges and needs of drivers who transport livestock.

 

SENATE BILL WOULD REFORM TRUCKING REGULATION FOR LIVESTOCK HAULERS

Legislation introduced Wednesday in the Senate would reform federal transportation rules for truckers hauling livestock. The “Transporting Livestock Across America Safely (TLAAS) Act,” sponsored by Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., John Hoeven, R-N.D., Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Rand Paul, R-Ky., Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., would modify the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Hours of Service (HOS) rules, which limit commercial truckers to 11 hours of driving time and 14 consecutive hours of on-duty time in any 24-hour period. Once drivers reach that limit, they must pull over and wait 10 hours before driving again. Among other things, the bill would:

  • Increase the HOS on-duty time to a minimum of 15 hours and a maximum of 18 hours.
  • Exempt loading and unloading times from the HOS calculation of driving time.
  • Allow drivers to rest during their trip without it counting against HOS on-duty time.
  • Allow drivers to complete their trip – regardless of HOS requirements – if they come within 150 air-miles of their delivery point.

NPPC, which has been urging DOT to add flexibility to the HOS rules for livestock haulers, said the legislation recognizes that the regulations must be reformed to address the unique challenges and needs of drivers transporting livestock.

 

SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVES AGRICULTURAL FUNDING BILL

The Senate Appropriations Committee this week approved the fiscal 2019 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies bill on a 31-0 vote. The legislation provides $145.1 billion in funding for fiscal 2019 – which begins Oct. 1 – to support federal agriculture, conservation and nutrition programs, $6.1 billion above the president’s budget request. Among the departments the measure funds are the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The Senate committee approval comes after the House Committee on Appropriations approved its version of the bill last week.

 

WHAT’S AHEAD

WORLD PORK EXPO JUNE 6-8

NPPC’s annual World Pork Expo, this year celebrating its 30th anniversary, will be held June 6-8 at the Iowa State fairgrounds in Des Moines. For more information about, and media registration for, the world’s largest pork industry trade show and exhibition, click here.