For the Week Ending August 13, 2021

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By a 69-30 vote, the Senate on Tuesday passed a bipartisan infrastructure package that calls for roughly $1 trillion in traditional infrastructure investments over the next five years. More than half of this funding represents new spending. Provisions include $110 billion for roads and bridges, $65 billion for broadband infrastructure, $16.3 billion for ports and waterways, and $66 billion for rail. The bill now moves to the House, along with a $3.5 trillion budget resolution passed later the same evening, setting the groundwork for a massive “human infrastructure” package to be considered under budget reconciliation later this year. Trade and expansion of export markets is crucial to the success of the U.S. pork industry. NPPC supports the trade-enhancing elements of the infrastructure package, including those that will strengthening our nation’s roads, bridges, ports and waterways and ensuring the steady transport of affordable, high-quality pork to customers here at home and around the globe. To see the final Senate vote on the infrastructure package, click here. To see an outline of the budget resolution, click here

On Tuesday, Reps. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) introduced legislation preventing ocean carriers from declining U.S. exports and halting excessive port fees, among other provisions. The “Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021” seeks to address recent shipping delays at U.S. international ports. In March, the lawmakers joined more than 100 of their congressional colleagues in a letter to the Federal Maritime Commission, urging action on unfair, anti-competitive and likely illegal business practices by some ocean carriers. In June, NPPC President Jen Sorenson testified about shipping delays at U.S. international ports disrupting exports, warning that if not soon addressed, could lead to serious bottlenecks for pork and other agriculture exports. In a letter to Garamendi and Johnson this week, NPPC joined numerous groups strongly endorsing the legislation. “The undersigned companies and associations believe the act’s provisions addressing unreasonable detention and demurrage charges, export cargo bookings, and other carrier practices, are essential to allow U.S. agriculture to remain competitive in global markets,” wrote the letter. Copies of the letter and legislation are here and here.  

On Friday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its guidance on protecting unvaccinated and other at-risk employees from COVID-19. Among the recommendations, full masking should be observed where infection rates are intensifying. OSHA also amended its guidance specific to meat processing facilities – stressing that physical barriers are not a replacement for social distancing and mask-wearing. These revisions come after OSHA limited the scope of its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to the healthcare industry. To read the updated guidance, click here.

A recently issued study has found that Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) can be introduced to pigs through the importation of contaminated feed products for up to 37 days. However, the study found that numerous conditions must be met for the transmission to occur, including: the feed must first become contaminated with the virus; the virus in the feed must then remain viable until it is fed, and the quantity of infectious virus must be sufficient to surpass the minimum infectious dose; and at least one pig must consume enough virus to become infected over one or multiple feedings. The findings demonstrate the importance of increased biosecurity efforts to ensure FMD remain outside the United States. An FMD outbreak would immediately close all export markets to U.S. meat. NPPC was instrumental in advocating for establishment of an FMD vaccine bank as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Last year, USDA made its first purchase, worth $27 million, and was delivered to the bank in December 2020. The study was conducted by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and funded by the Swine Health Information Center and the National Pork Board. The study is available here

A handful of trade appointments were made this week. On Tuesday, President Biden announced the nomination of Maria Pagan as deputy U.S. trade representative (USTR) in the Geneva office, where she will be the U.S. ambassador for the World Trade Organization. She is currently USTR deputy general counsel. She was the lead U.S. attorney for numerous trade agreement negotiations, including the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) agreement. Prior to joining USTR in 2003, she worked as an attorney advisor in the Office of the Chief Counsel for International Commerce at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Also on Tuesday, USDA announced Brooke Jamison as associate administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service and Regina Black as chief of staff for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs. Jamison has spent the past 23 years working on agriculture and international development policy for government, non-profit and private entities. As a congressional staffer, she handled agriculture and trade policy for two senators and a House member, as well as managing a legislative team for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Black was most recently the director of the executive office at the U.S. Dairy Council. She served in the Obama administration at USDA in various roles, including special assistant to the deputy secretary and acting deputy chief of staff for the Foreign Agricultural Service. 

On Wednesday, the Senate approved the nomination of Jennifer Moffitt as the administration’s nominee for undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs at USDA. Last month, NPPC joined 90 other agriculture groups in a letter of support for Moffitt. A copy of the letter is available here. Earlier in the week, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved the nominations of Xochitl Torres Small to be undersecretary of Agriculture for rural development and Robert Bonnie to be undersecretary for farm production and conservation. In 2018, Small became the first woman and the first person of color to represent New Mexico’s second congressional district. Bonnie served as the undersecretary for natural resources and environment during the second term of the Obama administration, and in the first term, he served as senior advisor to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack for environment and climate change. Last month, NPPC joined 56 other agriculture groups in signing a letter of support for his nomination.