For the Week Ending August 10, 2018
|NPPC ASKS COURT TO LIFT GAG ORDER IN N.C. NUISANCE SUITS
NPPC and the North Carolina Pork Council Monday evening filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of lifting a judge’s gag order on communications related to nuisance lawsuits filed against more than two dozen North Carolina hog farms. Judge Earl Britt, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, in late June imposed the gag order on the parties, lawyers and potential witnesses in lawsuits brought against Murphy-Brown, the hog production subsidiary of Smithfield Foods. The judge said a “significant increase in trial publicity” and the “volume and scope of prejudicial publicity” about the first two cases – one decided in early May and the other two days after the gag order was implemented – could taint future cases. NPPC and NCPC filed an amicus curiae brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., asking that it grant Murphy-Brown’s petition to vacate the District Court’s prior restraint on speech, noting that “All but the most carefully crafted, narrow gag orders are unconstitutional.” NPPC and NCPC argued that there is no compelling need for the gag order, the District Court did not consider alternatives to the order – including the jury selection process or jury instructions – the order is overbroad and vague, and it won’t be effective. On the latter point, they said it’s “not reasonable to think that any gag order will reduce coverage of these cases or blunt the public’s interest” in them. In three of the nuisance cases decided over the past three months, including one last week, juries have levied a combined $99 million in compensatory and punitive damages against family farmers over noise and odors from their hog farms. A total of 26 lawsuits have been filed.
NAFTA RENEGOTIATION TALKS CONTINUE; JAPAN TALKS BEGIN
Talks on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) continued this week for the third straight week as representatives from the United States, Canada and Mexico pushed to finalize an updated deal. NPPC continues to urge the Trump administration to maintain zero-duty market access for U.S. pork exports to Canada and Mexico and to caution that agreement termination would be detrimental for the U.S. pork industry, costing an estimated $1.5 billion. NPPC is also advocating for the initiation of bilateral negotiations for a free trade agreement with Japan. Japanese Economic Revitalization Minister Toshimitsu Motegi was in Washington this week for discussions with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
NPPC MEMBERS TO LOBBY CONGRESS ON PORK INDUSTRY ISSUES
NPPC will host its fall Legislative Action Conference in Washington, D.C., Sept. 12-13. The biannual fly-in draws from around the country more than 125 pork producers, including 15 who will be participating in NPPC’s Pork Leadership Institute, a grassroots leadership development program. Producers will lobby congressional lawmakers on issues of importance to the U.S. pork industry, including asking them to urge the Trump administration to pursue bilateral trade agreements, to rescind regulations detrimental to agriculture, adopt a visa reform package addressing the agricultural labor shortage and to support establishing and funding a Foot-and-Mouth Disease vaccine bank.