For the Week Ending October 14, 2016

October 14, 2016


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) today sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review three rules related to the buying and selling of livestock and poultry. They include: an interim final rule addressing the “scope” of sections of the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) related to meat packers using unfair, unjustly discriminatory or deceptive practices and giving undue or unreasonable preferences or advantages to producers; a proposed rule defining unfair practices and undue preferences; and a proposed rule addressing poultry grower ranking systems. According to a letter sent this week by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to NPPC and to other agricultural organizations, the so-called Farmer Fair Practices Rules “seek to help balance the relationships between livestock producers, swine production contract growers, and poultry growers and the packers, swine contractors, and live poultry dealers with whom they interact.” NPPC has strong concerns about the regulations, which largely were included in the proposed 2010 GIPSA Rule. That rule was supposed to implement provisions included in the 2008 Farm Bill but went well beyond the congressional mandates and would have had a significant negative effect on the livestock industry, according to analyses. (A November 2010 Informa Economics study of the rule found it would have cost the pork industry more than $330 million annually; an updated study conducted this year showed the cost would be $420 million annually.) Tens of thousands of comments, including 16,000 from pork producers, were filed in opposition to the 2010 rule, and Congress several times included riders in USDA’s annual funding bill to prevent the agency from finalizing the regulation. But no rider was included in the fiscal 2016 agricultural funding bill, and USDA earlier this year indicate it would move forward with new GIPSA rules. NPPC is particularly concerned about the rule clarifying the scope of the PSA – potentially the most problematic. USDA indicated in its letter that it would “establish our interpretation of the statute, which will then be entitled to judicial deference.” NPPC is concerned that the interpretation apparently will be that producers no longer will need to prove that a meat packer’s action injured or diminished competition in a marketplace. They only will need to show that a practice was “unfair” or that an “undue” or “unreasonable” preference or advantage was given to another producer or producers. The Senate considered and rejected such a “no competitive injury” provision during debate on the 2008 Farm Bill. Additionally, eight federal appeals courts have held that it must be proved that competition in a marketplace was harmed for an action to be a violation of the PSA. Most of the costs of complying with the 2010 rules would have resulted from the regulation related to the sections on “undue or unreasonable preferences or advantages” and “unfair, unjustly discriminatory or deceptive practices.” Also of concern, because it’s “final,” that regulation will become effective as soon as it’s published in the Federal Register. NPPC will analyze and submit comments on all the rules once OMB reviews and publishes them.



Media accounts to the contrary, North Carolina pork producers are weathering the historic flooding brought on by Hurricane Matthew, which hit the eastern part of the state last weekend. As of Thursday, fewer than 3,000 pigs from among the state’s more than 2,100 permitted hog farms had perished. Additionally, there had been no reported hog manure lagoon breaches. By contrast, Hurricane Floyd in 1999 killed nearly 21,500 pigs in North Carolina and caused six lagoon breaches. An estimated 11 lagoons have been inundated with flood waters – compared with 50 related to Floyd – meaning a small portion of heavily diluted effluent has been washed out of them. (Again by contrast, more than a dozen eastern North Carolina municipalities have had untreated human waste get into waterways, including more than 6 million gallons from Dunn, 1 million gallons from Elizabeth City and 1 million gallons from Washington.) The North Carolina Pork Council is working with the state’s agricultural and environmental agencies to assess the ongoing disaster and to protect pork producers, their animals and the environment. False information about hog deaths and lagoon breaches was provided to media outlets by the anti-modern agriculture organization North Carolina Waterkeepers Alliance. One reported breach, for example, occurred on a Hookerton, N.C., farm that hasn’t been in operation for five years.



The prime ministers of Australia and Singapore in a joint press conference Thursday in Canberra, Australia, urged the United States to stay engaged in the Asia-Pacific region and called on the U.S. Congress to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. The two countries are part of the TPP, whose 12 nations have a combined 800 million consumers and represent more than 40 percent of the world’s GDP. Said Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: “The ratification of the TPP by the U.S. Congress would be of enormous importance to the region and … a profoundly strategically important commitment.” Lee Hsien Loong, Singapore’s prime minister, who said, “we all hope the U.S. will ratify [TPP] soon,” told reports that it’s important for the United States to stay engaged in the Asia Pacific “on a broad range of areas.” Also weighing in this week on the trade deal, which NPPC strongly supports, was Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who said in a Washington Post op-ed that how congressional lawmakers vote on the TPP “will affect the course of the United States’ security, prosperity and global influence for the rest of the 21st century and determine whether we advance or retreat from our leadership role at a time of worldwide turmoil and uncertainty.”



In separate letters sent this week, the Ag Transportation Working Group, which includes NPPC, urged President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to renominate Ann Begeman for another five-year term as a Republican member of the Surface Transportation Board. The board is a bipartisan, three-member organization housed within the U.S. Department of Transportation that provides a forum for the resolution of surface transportation disputes and other matters within its jurisdiction. Prior to her service on the board, beginning in May 2011, Begeman was Republican staff director for the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. She also previously served as acting chief of staff and legislative director for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and as a legislative assistant to then-Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D. The working group pointed out in its letters that Begeman has played a key role in crafting major transportation legislation, including the ICC Termination Act, which abolished the Interstate Commerce Commission and established the Surface Transportation Board. He term expires Dec. 31.



Lauren Schwab, a full-time farrowing house manager at Schwab Family Farms in Oxford, Ohio, this week was named one of eight finalists for the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) “Faces of Farming and Ranching” contest. “There’s no greater feeling to grow up working with animals on the land and knowing how my food is raised,” says Schwab in her video submission for the USFRA contest. “I realize not everyone gets that opportunity. I want to open up my farm gate to allow people to see how their food is produced.” Contest winners, who will be announced Nov. 9 during the annual meeting of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters in Kansas City, Mo., will spend the next year sharing their agriculture stories on a national stage through public appearances, events, media interviews and social media. From today through Oct. 23, click here to learn more about each finalist and to vote for the next “Faces of Farming and Ranching.” A vote can be cast once every 24 hours.



NPPC has hired Corey Brown as domestic policy adviser based in its Washington, D.C., offices. Brown, who grew up on her family’s eastern North Carolina hog farm, earned her law and undergraduate degrees from the University of North Carolina. She previously spent a summer as a law clerk for NPPC, working on issues related to farmer privacy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the United States rule. Most recently, she worked as a legislative law clerk for Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., where she assisted with the senator’s duties as a member of the Judiciary Committee. Brown also previously interned with the National Agricultural Law Center and the North Carolina General Assembly’s Research Division. She reports to Michael Formica, NPPC’s assistant vice president for domestic policy and counsel.





The agricultural and rural platforms of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be discussed at the Farm Foundation Forum Wednesday, Oct. 19 in Washington, D.C. Representatives for the campaigns are expected to address such issues as federal farm policies, trade, conservation, environmental issues and labor. (Click here to register to listen to the live audiocast of the forum, which will be from 8 to 10 a.m. Eastern.)


For questions, comments and suggestions or to subscribe, contact: Dave Warner, Director of Communications, NPPC, at (202) 347-3600, or via e-mail at