For the Week Ending January 24, 2020

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This week, NPPC spearheaded a letter signed by more than 70 agriculture groups urging the House Homeland Committee to expeditiously approve legislation (H.R. 4482) authorizing funding for additional U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel to conduct agriculture inspections at international ports of entry. The bipartisan bill, introduced by Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas), authorizes $222 million over three years to enable CBP to hire 240 new agriculture specialists and 200 new agriculture technicians each fiscal year until the shortage is filled. The bill also authorizes 60 new canine teams over the next three years. Rep. Vela’s legislation is the companion to Senate bill S. 2107, which passed by unanimous consent in October 2019. “CBP agricultural specialists play a vital role in both trade and travel safety and prevent the introduction of harmful foreign animal diseases and exotic plant pests into the U.S. Diseases such as African Swine Fever, which has killed more than one out of every four pigs on the planet, would have a devastating impact on U.S. livestock producers, their communities, and the economy if introduced into the U.S.,” explained the letter to House Homeland Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-Ala.). For more than a year, NPPC has led agriculture’s call for a solution to the ag inspector shortage to bolster the nation’s defenses against foreign animal diseases.  


In response to a request from the U.S. Trade Representative, NPPC recently filed Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) comments for Ecuador, Indonesia, South Africa and Thailand. The countries are beneficiaries of the program, and they impose non-tariff barriers that limit U.S. products, including pork, allowed into the country. The GSP program provides duty-free treatment to select goods imported into the United States. The program allows for removal of a country’s benefits if it fails to provide the United States “equitable and reasonable access” to its market. NPPC is urging these countries to provide equitable and reasonable access for U.S. pork. In 2018, NPPC filed comments urging the Trump administration to withdraw or limit the benefits Thailand received under the preferential trade program. 


On Wednesday, U.S. Senate Pro Tempore Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) signed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) implementing legislation, the last formal step before sending to President Trump for his signature. The Senate overwhelmingly passed USMCA last week, which once implemented, will provide much-needed certainty for U.S. pork producers. The White House plans to host a formal signing on Jan. 29. Meantime, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this week that the Canadian government will unveil legislation to ratify USMCA on Jan. 29. USMCA ratification has been a top priority for NPPC. In 2018, Canada and Mexico took more than 40 percent of the pork that was exported from the United States and a similar volume is expected in 2019. U.S. pork exports to Canada and Mexico support 16,000 U.S. jobs.


On Thursday, EPA replaced the unlawful 2015 Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule with a final rule called the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. The final rule is fully consistent with the Clean Water Act and recent Supreme Court decisions. The previous WOTUS rule issued by the Obama administration in August 2015 gave EPA broad jurisdiction over U.S. waters to include other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams. Most importantly, it also covered lands adjacent to waters such as farm fields. “We’re pleased EPA has finalized a common-sense rule, the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, that works with—not against—farmers to protect our nation’s waterways,” said NPPC President David Herring, a pork producer from Lillington, N.C. NPPC opposed the 2015 WOTUS rule because it was overly broad and had significant technical flaws, including the process that EPA used to develop the rule, which violated basic due process and long-standing procedural protections. To view the full NPPC press release, click here


On Tuesday, the European Parliament’s trade committee voted in favor of a free trade agreement (FTA) with Vietnam. The committee supported the agreement by a 29-6 vote, paving the way for a Parliament vote on Feb. 11 vote. The trade agreement will open Vietnam’s market to EU industrial and agricultural exports. Vietnam represents the top FTA priority for U.S. pork producers, especially as the country battles African swine fever and needs a safe, reliable and affordable source of pork. In August 2019, a USDA grant awarded to the Swine Health Information Center, with active support from NPPC, aims to start a dialogue between Vietnam and the U.S., sharing veterinary knowledge and ways to prevent the disease from further spreading.