For the Week Ending August 2, 2019

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Japanese Economic Revitalization Minister Toshimitsu Motegi met Thursday and Friday in Washington, D.C., with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to discuss a limited trade agreement that includes agriculture. In written comments to the Senate Finance Committee published earlier this week, Lighthizer explained that agriculture producers will see “significant new opportunities for agricultural exports” once an agreement with Japan is finalized. U.S. pork producers are currently at a significant disadvantage in Japan because international competitors have recently entered into trade agreements with the country, including the EU and CPTPP nations. NPPC is urging the Trump administration to expeditiously finalize negotiations and quickly implement a deal with Japan to prevent continued U.S. pork market share loss in its top value export market.

More than 20 House Energy & Commerce Committee members recently sent a letter to acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, urging the agency to “develop a more appropriate, workable approach” to regulating animal biotech. “We are worried that there may be many unintended consequences with FDA’s approach as well….Argentina recently completed review of a gene-edited animal in less than a year—an effort that may take a decade under FDA’s existing approach. Brazil, Canada, China, and others are undergoing similar efforts. To maintain competitiveness, it is critical that the U.S. reconsider its current approach,” the letter wrote. In June, NPPC launched its “Keep America First in Agriculture” campaign to highlight the importance of establishing a proper regulatory framework for gene editing in American livestock. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the only agency prepared to effectively regulate this new technology. It already has a review process in place for genetic editing in plants under its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which can easily be adopted for livestock. The USDA also has the understanding and history of working directly with livestock and agriculture, unlike the FDA, which regulates packaged food, drugs and medical devices. 

U.S. and Chinese negotiators completed another round of trade talks on Wednesday in Shanghai that included a discussion of additional American agriculture purchases. The negotiations included U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “The two sides discussed topics such as forced technology transfer, intellectual property rights, services, non-tariff barriers, and agriculture,” according to a White House statement. “The Chinese side confirmed their commitment to increase purchases of United States agricultural exports. The meetings were constructive, and we expect negotiations on an enforceable trade deal to continue in Washington, D.C., in early September,” it added. On Thursday, President Trump announced in a series of tweets that China had agreed “to buy agricultural product from the U.S. in large quantities, but did not do so….Trade talks are continuing and during the talks, the U.S. will start, on Sept. 1, putting a small additional tariff of 10% on the remaining 300 billion dollars of goods and products coming from China into our country.” He added that the U.S. looks forward to continuing our positive dialogue with China on a comprehensive trade deal. NPPC continues to stress the importance of ending the trade dispute with China that has placed a 50% punitive tariff on U.S. pork in addition to the regular tariff of 12%, putting the U.S. pork industry at a significant disadvantage to its global competitors. Were it not for China’s trade retaliation, U.S. pork producers would be in a strong position to capitalize on an unprecedented sales opportunity in China, where domestic production is down significantly as African swine fever has ravaged the country’s swine herd. 

On Thursday, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) introduced legislation to codify into law the Trump Administration’s rollback of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. In late 2018, EPA proposed regulation to replace the WOTUS rule issued in August 2015 by the Obama administration. That measure gave EPA broad jurisdiction over U.S. waters to include, among other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. It also covered lands adjacent to such waters. Ernst’s bill would codify a definition of WOTUS and reassert Congressional responsibility to define this important term. NPPC believes the original WOTUS rule in 2015 was overly broad and poorly written, a massive land grab that promoted federal control over private property, grew the size of government and allowed activists to extort and micromanage all kinds of farming and business activities.

NPPC and a handful of other organizations representing America’s farmers, ranchers, meat, poultry and egg industries recently sent a letter to Senate Republican and Democratic leadership, urging the lawmakers to swiftly bring to the floor the nomination of Dr. Mindy Brashears as under secretary of Food Safety. She was nominated to her post last year. “For more than five years, the United States Department of Agriculture has not had a confirmed Under Secretary in the mission area of food safety.  American consumers enjoy the safest and most secure food supply in the world and for a position as critical to public trust to remain vacant for that period of time is in no one’s best interest. We believe without a doubt that Dr. Brashears is the best choice to fulfill this function.  Her unique background and experience regarding food safety issues is unparalleled.  Moreover, her work since assuming her duties as Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety engaging with the regulated community, small and very small processing facilities, and consumer groups have shown her leadership on these issues,” the letter explained.