U.S. Pork Industry Facing Headwinds, Iowa Pork Producers President Tells Congress

September 25, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 25, 2019 – The U.S. pork industry is facing serious headwinds both at home and abroad that need to be addressed to ensure the industry remains competitive, allowing for expanded production, greater job growth and continued contribution to rural communities across the country, Iowa Pork Producers President Trent Thiele testified this morning before the Senate Agriculture Committee.

U.S. pork producers need trade certainty and ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement is one of the industry’s top priorities, said Thiele, a hog farmer from Howard County, Iowa, testifying on behalf of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). Last year, more than 40 percent of U.S. pork exported went to Canada and Mexico. “USMCA will strengthen the strong economic ties with our North American neighbors, and help ensure tariff-free trade on pork remains in place for the long term…. U.S. pork producers urge Congress to ratify USMCA, providing much-needed certainty in two of our largest export markets,” he told the committee.

Trade certainty is also critical in Japan, the largest value export market for U.S. pork, Thiele told the committee. The U.S. pork industry was pleased that a trade agreement with Japan was agreed in principle last month and, once implemented, will place it back on a level playing field with international competitors. We urge the administration to quickly ratify the agreement in one of our most important markets, Thiele said.

However, U.S. pork producers continue to seek an end to the trade dispute with China, Thiele highlighted. Affordable pork is in short supply in China because African swine fever has ravaged the Chinese hog herd and significantly reduced the production of pork. Yet the U.S. is missing out “on an unprecedented sales opportunity” in China due to punitive tariffs that have cost U.S. producers $8 per animal, or $1 billion on an annualized, industry-wide basis over the last year, he said. “While recent Chinese media reports have suggested tariff relief for U.S. pork, we need to remove market access uncertainty and level the playing field in the world’s largest pork-consuming nation,” he added.

In addition to trade issues, U.S. pork producers are working to prevent the spread of foreign animal diseases, including African swine fever, an animal disease affecting only pigs and with no human health or food safety risks, Thiele explained. The U.S. pork industry is urging Congress to add 600 additional agricultural inspectors at our borders and ports.

In his testimony, Thiele also highlighted several other priorities for U.S. pork producers, including:

  • Visa reform to address a serious labor shortage that could lead to farms and packing plants closing operations. NPPC supports visa system reform that provides agricultural employers with sustained access to year-round labor.
  • The right regulatory framework for gene-edited livestock, an innovation that promises to strengthen U.S. pork’s competitive position globally. Through its “Keep America First in Agriculture” campaign, NPPC is aggressively working to establish oversight within the U.S. Department of Agriculture where it belongs, not with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has claimed jurisdiction.

A full copy of Thiele’s prepared remarks is here.

# # #

NPPC is the global voice for the U.S. pork industry, protecting the livelihoods of America’s 60,000 pork producers, who abide by ethical principles in caring for their animals, in protecting the environment and public health and in providing safe, wholesome, nutritious pork products to consumers worldwide. For more information, visit www.nppc.org.