For the Week Ending December 20, 2019

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U.S. pork producers are one step closer to implementation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, preserving long-term zero-tariff pork trade in North America. On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of USMCA by a 385 to 41 vote. Passage of USMCA is one of NPPC’s highest trade priorities. “We can’t get it ratified through Congress fast enough,” NPPC President David Herring, a hog farmer from Lillington, N.C., said this week during an NPPC press briefing. The Senate is expected to consider and pass the agreement early next year. Earlier this week, NPPC joined organizations in signing a letter to lawmakers, urging passage of USMCA. “USMCA is critical to our economic future because it will preserve and strengthen U.S. trade ties to Canada and Mexico. More than 12 million American jobs depend on trade with Canada and Mexico. U.S. manufacturers export more made-in-America manufactured goods to our North American neighbors than they do to the next 11 largest export markets combined, and the two countries account for nearly one-third of U.S. agricultural exports. Approval of USMCA will ensure U.S. manufacturers, farmers, and service providers can continue to access the Canadian and Mexican markets. The new pact guarantees that virtually all U.S. exports will enter these markets tariff-free,” the letter said. Last year, Canada and Mexico took over 40 percent of the pork that was exported from the United States and a similar percentage is expected this year. U.S. pork exports to Canada and Mexico support 16,000 U.S. jobs.

With 2019 coming to a close, NPPC held a media briefing this week to highlight 2019 progress and to outline priorities for the new year. “Without a doubt, U.S. pork producers are operating in a significantly improved environment than the one we faced at this time last year. We head into 2020 with some momentum thanks to successes on many fronts,” NPPC President David Herring told more than 30 reporters during the teleconference on Wednesday. Among top NPPC successes this year were leading the charge to resolve the North American metal dispute, prompting the removal of Mexico’s 20 percent punitive tariffs on U.S. pork, urging the U.S. and Japan to reach an early-harvest trade deal covering pork and other farm products, getting oversight of cell cultured protein at USDA, and urging the introduction of legislation to increase the number of agriculture inspectors at the ports, while also securing a USDA grant to gain a better understanding of African swine fever through research in Vietnam, an ASF-positive country. During the conference call, Herring joined NPPC staff in outlining 2020 priorities, such as gaining unrestricted market access in China and establishing regulatory oversight of gene-edited livestock with the USDA. A summary of 2019 progress and 2020 priorities can be viewed here.

This week, Congress approved a $1.4 trillion spending package that prevents a government shutdown and funds the federal government through Sept. 30, 2020. As part of the funding, an additional $19.6 million was provided for more agricultural inspectors at land, air and sea ports to prevent African swine fever (ASF) and other foreign animal diseases (FAD) from entering the United States. This funding, included in the fiscal year 2020 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, is a top priority for NPPC. “For more than a year, NPPC has advocated for an increase in the number of agricultural inspectors at our borders,” said NPPC President David Herring, a pork producer from Lillington, N.C. “We applaud the House, especially Reps. Vela, Thompson, Peterson, Axne, Carbajal, Gonzalez, Costa, Rouzer and Fortenberry, for approving an essential provision to reduce the risk of ASF and other FADs and to protect the rural economy from a devastating outbreak. We also thank the USDA and Customs and Border Protection for all they have done to strengthen U.S. biosecurity.” Read NPPC’s full release here.

This week, legislation was introduced that codifies one of NPPC’s top accomplishments of 2019: an agreement reached earlier this year between the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to ensure Cell-Cultured Protein (CCP)—produced from cultured cells taken from pigs and other livestock—is regulated on terms that ensures a level playing field. Senate Bill 3053, introduced by Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), would ensure the agreement between the two agencies has the force of law. The Meat and Poultry Inspection Act clearly indicates that CCP should be under the oversight of USDA’s Federal Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). FDA will have a role in ensuring that ingredients used in the manufacture of CCP products are safe. When it comes to making products from these cells, only FSIS has the capability to provide continuous, risk-based inspection and apply strict labeling standards that will ensure consumer awareness of what CCP is and how it’s produced. Thanks in part to NPPC’s efforts, on March 7, 2019, the FDA and USDA’s FSIS signed a formal agreement to regulate CCP. The agreement was designed to leverage the expertise of both agencies to protect the country’s food supply and provide safe and accurately labeled products. It’s critical that product names and label claims protect the investments livestock farmers have made to establish a definition of meat protein that is widely understood by consumers.

The White House Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday approved USDA’s changes to its Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rules, clearing the way for release of the proposal. Earlier this year, USDA indicated its intention to develop new GIPSA rules in compliance with the Congressional direction in the 2010 Farm Bill.  NPPC opposes any new GIPSA regulations that interfere with pork producer rights to freely enter into contractual business relationships or otherwise restrict producers’ ability to sell and packers’ ability to buy livestock. The U.S. pork sector is highly competitive and pork producers are the most innovative sector of the overall agricultural economy. 

Due to the upcoming Christmas and New Years’ holidays, Capital Update will not publish the following two weeks. We will resume publication on Jan. 10, 2020.