For the Week Ending January 11, 2019

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As the 116th Congress commenced on Jan. 3, NPPC announced a full slate of priorities for 2019. Among them are finalizing and starting new trade agreements; resolving ongoing trade disputes, including removing current steel and aluminum tariffs; maintaining and expanding existing market access for U.S. pork; implementing the 2018 Farm Bill, including preventing and preparing for foreign animal diseases; and reforming the visa system to provide agricultural employers with access to year-round labor. A list of NPPC’s 2019 priorities can be accessed here.



The U.S. Supreme Court this week declined to hear consolidated cases brought by 16 state attorneys general against California and Massachusetts laws that prohibit the sale of eggs from hens kept in housing that doesn’t meet their standards regardless of which state they are raised. In declining the cases, the high court followed the views of the U.S. Solicitor General that the issues raised in them aren’t “ripe” and should be heard first by at the U.S. District Court level. Massachusetts, for example, has yet to develop rules to implement the sales ban and animal housing standards – both of which also apply to pork production – its voters approved in 2016. The attorneys general challenged the states’ laws as violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which gives Congress the power to regulate trade among the states. (Subsequent to the cases being filed, California voters approved an initiative in November 2018 that would ban the sale of pork from hogs born to sows housed in gestation stalls anywhere in the country.) NPPC, which opposed the California and Massachusetts measures, supported the lawsuits filed by the attorneys general.



USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors and agency employees who produce the twice-daily livestock price reports remain on the job despite the ongoing government shutdown. NPPC early last year strongly urged Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to deem as essential FSIS meat inspectors and the Agricultural Marketing Service staff responsible for operating and administering the Livestock Mandatory Reporting program, including Market News, which includes information on pricing, contracting for purchase, supply-and-demand conditions for livestock, livestock production and livestock products. Also continuing during the shutdown are USDA’s purchases of pork and other commodities, part of the Trump administration’s assistance program for America’s farmers suffering from ongoing trade disputes. U.S. pork producers are the largest beneficiary of the program. Secretary Perdue this week extended the January 15 deadline for signing up for Market Facilitation Program payments. The new deadline will be determined when the shutdown ends and will be extended by the number of days equal to the duration of the government shutdown.



Just before leaving office on Dec. 31, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed legislation that would have required all eggs sold in the state to be from cage-free laying hens. While the bill was supported by some egg industry organizations, it was opposed by the National Association of Egg Farmers because of health and safety concerns as well as concerns about the bill’s effects on the egg production practices of farmers in other states. In a letter to Snyder, NPPC pointed out that animal housing has no bearing on food safety or the risk of food borne illness and that the bill’s attempt to regulate agricultural production outside of Michigan is “a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution.” It said the legislation would “harm Michigan consumers, especially low-income, working families already struggling to feed their families, by limiting their consumer choices and increasing food prices.” Michigan in 2009 passed a law requiring cage-free housing for hens and outlawing sow gestation stalls. California and Massachusetts voters recently approved initiatives that will impose similar housing standards and require eggs and pork sold in-state to be from farms – anywhere in the country – that meet their housing requirements. NPPC, which opposed both initiatives, is supporting efforts to overturn such measures through the federal courts.



According to an announcement following the release of official U.S.-Japan negotiating objectives, the United States said it could begin trade talks with Japan as early as Jan. 20. The objectives, released on Dec. 21, call for “comprehensive market access” for American agricultural products. NPPC continues to urge the Trump administration to expeditiously negotiate a trade agreement with Japan to avoid market share loss in that country, something that’s all-but inevitable given the Dec. 30, 2018, entry into force of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the expected Feb. 1 implementation of the European Union’s agreement with Japan. In 2016, Japanese consumers purchased almost $1.6 billion of U.S. pork products, making Japan the U.S. pork industry’s No. 1 export market.