U.S. Pork Industry’s 2015 Successes
The National Pork Producers Council won a number of victories for pork producers in 2015. Here’s a look at some of the significant wins:
Trade Promotion Authority Bill Signed into Law
Congress passed and President Obama signed into law legislation granting the administration authority to enter and finalize free trade agreements (FTA). Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) sets objectives for FTAs and allows for congressional review of deals. Once trade negotiators finalize an agreement, Congress gets to review it and vote – without amendments – yes or no on it. After passage of TPA, NPPC called on U.S. trade negotiators to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an Asia-Pacific regional trade deal that could boost U.S. pork exports significantly.
Chile Agrees to Eliminate Trichinae Testing Requirement
Chile agreed to eliminate trichinae testing requirements on chilled U.S. pork based on a USDA certification that the pork originates from Pork Quality Assurance Plus farms. (PQA Plus is an education and training program run by the National Pork Board that certifies that hog operations meet their commitments on animal well-being, food safety, worker safety and environmental protection.) NPPC worked closely with U.S. and Chilean officials to eliminate the testing, which artificially raises the cost of selling chilled pork. The risk of getting trichinae from consuming U.S. pork is less than 1 in 300 million. Chile is one of the fastest growing markets in the world for U.S. pork exports since implementation of the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement in 2004.
International Trichinae Guidance to Help Boost U.S. Pork Exports
The United Nations’ food-safety standard-setting body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, finalized global guidelines that provide a way for countries to define negligible risk for trichinae and establish methods for monitoring risk over time. NPPC and the National Pork Board provided scientific input on the international guidance, which will help increase U.S. pork exports by hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Trichinae is nearly non-existent in the U.S. pork supply because of increased knowledge of risk factors, adoption of controlled management practices and thorough biosecurity protocols, but many U.S. trading partners still have concerns over trichinae, which can result in severe human health issues because of its prevalence in their domestic swine herds. The guidance approved by the Codex commission allows countries to establish a negligible risk “compartment,” which must include controlled management conditions for swine herds, ongoing verification of the status of the compartment, and a response plan for deviations from negligible risk status. Two years of data collection verifying negligible risk levels through slaughter surveillance, which consists of random sampling, is required to establish a compartment.
West Coast Ports Resume Full Operations
NPPC worked with federal officials to resolve work slowdowns at West Coast ports that negatively affected U.S. agriculture. From November 2014 into February 2015, West Coast dock workers participated in slowdowns in response to a labor dispute with port owners. The slowdowns caused major congestion at ports from Vancouver, Wash., to San Diego, Calif., and cost the U.S. meat and poultry sectors an estimated $40 million a week. NPPC weighed in with the Federal Maritime Commission on issues related to shipping, including improving efficiency, logistics, and mechanization at port facilities.
Livestock Transporters Get Exemption From 'Hours of Service' Rule
America’s hog, cattle, and poultry farmers were granted a permanent exemption from the U.S. Department of Transportation hours-of-service rule for certain drivers. The rule, issued in mid-2013 by DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), requires truck drivers to take a 30-minute rest break for every 8 hours of service. It would have prohibited drivers hauling livestock and poultry from caring for animals during the rest period. NPPC, on behalf of other livestock, poultry and food organizations, in 2013 petitioned the FMCSA for a waiver and exemption from complying with the regulation.
Price Reporting Act Reauthorized, With Pork Provisions Added
Legislation reauthorizing the livestock mandatory price reporting act for another five years was signed into law. The statute requires meat packers to report to the U.S. Department of Agriculture the prices they pay for cattle, hogs, and lambs and other information. USDA publishes twice-daily reports with information on pricing, contracting for purchase, supply and demand conditions for livestock, livestock production, and livestock products. The reauthorization legislation includes new provisions sought by the U.S. pork industry – NPPC testified in support of them – including one that establishes a “Negotiated-Formula” price category to better reflect the total number of hogs negotiated each day regardless of how buyers and sellers arrive at the prices. Another provision will require that pigs sold after the 1:30 p.m. deadline for inclusion in the afternoon price report be included in the next morning’s report.
Deadline Extended for Railroads to Install Safety Technology
A bill extending for three years the deadline for putting positive train control (PTC) technology on about 60,000 miles of the nation’s 140,000 miles of track was signed into law. PTC automatically stops a train before certain incidents occur, including train-to-train collisions and derailments caused by excessive speed. NPPC and other agricultural groups pushed for extending the Dec. 31, 2015, deadline to ensure that rail carriers would continue to transport vital products, including anhydrous ammonia. The American Association of Railroads, the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Federal Railroad Administration indicated that the majority of railroads would not have met the 2015 deadline, which would have meant millions of dollars in federal fines for rail companies and likely prompted them to discontinue on the covered tracks passenger service and freight service. The provision extending the PTC deadline also would allow an additional two-year extension if certain benchmarks are met.
Pork Pulled From, Put Back on Federal Prison Menus
When the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) decided to stop serving pork products in its 122 federal penitentiaries, NPPC and Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, weighed in on the matter, convincing BOP to reverse itself. The decision to pull pork from the menu supposedly was based on a survey of federal inmates and on costs. NPPC and Grassley sent letters to BOP Director Charles Samuels Jr., asking for more details on the decision. “Pork is a very economical, nutrient-dense protein that ought to be a food option for federal prisoners, and the U.S. pork industry has a variety of products that could meet BOP’s needs,” NPPC said in its letter. Despite the BOP’s reversal, Grassley is pressing the agency on the reasons it purged pork from prisons.