For the Week Ending August 21, 2020

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The promise of gene-edited livestock—used to make specific changes within an animal’s own genome— is significant, allowing us to produce animals that are more disease-resistant, require fewer antibiotics and have a better environmental footprint. However, a regulatory tug of war remains between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over authority on genetic editing in livestock. Unfortunately, U.S. livestock farmers are caught in the middle, allowing China, Brazil, Canada and other global competitors to move ahead in the race to utilize this new technology, NPPC President Howard “AV” Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wis., wrote this week in an op ed published in Agri Pulse. Regulatory overreach by the FDA is preventing the United States from realizing the benefit of this promising technology. Under FDA regulation, gene editing faces an impractical, lengthy and expensive approval process, inhibiting the necessary investment to develop this technology, Roth wrote. USDA should have primary authority for new genetic technologies used in livestock. The agency already has a review process in place for genetic editing in plants under its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which can be adapted for livestock. “We want to make sure it’s regulated in the right way, so farmers and ranchers have access to it,” NPPC Director of Science and Technology Dr. Dan Kovich explained on “Adams on Agriculture” on Wednesday. “We’re hoping a decision [on regulatory oversight] is going to made soon,” he added. 

This week, Senate Republicans circulated a slimmed down, $500 billion COVID aid package that among changes, doesn’t include additional aid for farmers. Instead, the package would include extended assistance for unemployed people and smaller businesses. Democrats have rejected a smaller bill and suggested they’d be willing to discuss a larger, $2 trillion aid package. It’s unclear whether any compromise is on the horizon.  Negotiations over a larger bill are expected to resume after Labor Day. NPPC continues to advocate for solutions to sustain pork producers through this unprecedented crisis. Recently, NPPC sent a letter to congressional leadership, urging them to include the RELIEF for Producers Act of 2020 in the next COVID-19 recovery package. The bill, introduced by Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), includes: 1) compensation for euthanized and donated hogs; 2) additional funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories, which have appropriately assisted and shared resources with their public health partners; and 3) modification of the Commodity Credit Corporation charter so a pandemic-driven national emergency qualifies for funding. NPPC also continues to push for additional funds for direct payments to producers without restriction and extension of the Paycheck Protection Program with modifications to make it useful to more producers. 

On Friday, NPPC and the North American Meat Institute filed an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, in support of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s New Swine Inspection System (NSIS), enacted into law in the fall of 2019. The voluntary program increases efficiency and effectiveness of the federal inspection process, allows for the rapid adoption of new food-safety technologies in pork slaughter, and has the potential to increase U.S. harvest capacity. NSIS, which has been piloted at five pork processing plants, was developed over many years of research and evaluation and received the endorsement of the National Association of Federal Veterinarians, highlighting the strong science-based approach used in designing the program. Earlier this year, labor unions filed a lawsuit against NSIS. NPPC strongly supports the NSIS and the program’s loss could result in an annual capacity reduction of nearly 2 million hogs, on top of unprecedented challenges already facing U.S. pork producers as a result of the COVID pandemic. “This environment is not one in which additional production slowdowns can be weathered in stride. The livelihoods of American hog farms are already in a precarious state,” the brief explained. Read the full amicus brief here

On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a new, five-year plan, the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), that calls for enhanced monitoring of pathogens, including in animal feed and pet food, to combat antimicrobial resistance. As FDA explained, “Reducing human exposure to antimicrobial resistant microorganisms and their resistance determinants is key to reducing the burden of antimicrobial resistant infections, and food is a potential source of human exposure. An antimicrobial resistance monitoring system is required to track resistance among different population groups and in different settings over time, detect new resistance types, reveal the underlying determinants of resistance in different microorganisms, and measure the effectiveness of interventions.” Additionally, FDA plans to hold a virtual public meeting on Oct. 13-14 to discuss the NARMS Strategic Plan: 2021-2025. NPPC has been supportive of previous NARMS efforts, having federal agencies use scientific evidence when making decisions about the availability and regulation of antimicrobials. For more information, visit here