For the Week Ending July 10, 2020

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NPPC’s top priority is a new COVID congressional relief package that includes much-needed financial assistance to U.S. pork producers in crisis. Once Congress returns from its recess later this month, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) plans to push for the next coronavirus aid package to include the RELIEF for Producers Act of 2020, which would provide hog farmers with a critical lifeline to address the COVID-19 crisis, he told reporters this week. Grassley, along with Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), introduced the bill last week, which would: 1) compensate hog and poultry producers who are forced to euthanize or donate animals that can’t be processed into the food supply due to COVID-related packing plant capacity reductions; 2) increase funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories, which have appropriately assisted and shared resources with their public health partners; and 3) revise the Commodity Credit Corporation charter so a pandemic-driven national emergency qualifies for funding. NPPC strongly supports the legislation. “In a nutshell, this helps hog farmers and they really need help,” said NPPC Vice President & Counsel, Global Government Affairs Nick Giordano. “This is an unprecedented emergency in hog farming, so it’s really important that Congress pass legislation to help hog farmers and that the president sign it,” he added. In related news, NPPC and 20 other agriculture groups sent a letter Thursday to Congressional leadership, urging for the next relief package to address the unprecedented emergency in U.S. agriculture. A copy of the letter to Congressional leadership is here

The establishment of a robust Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine bank—a top, long-term NPPC priority—came closer to reality on Wednesday as USDA announced its first significant vaccine purchase. NPPC was instrumental in advocating for establishment of the FMD vaccine bank as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. “Today’s announcement is momentous, representing years of NPPC advocacy to ensure U.S. agriculture is protected should we have an FMD outbreak,” said NPPC President Howard “AV” Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin. Currently, the USDA, which has prescribed vaccination for dealing with an FMD outbreak, does not have access to enough vaccine should an outbreak occur. Read the full NPPC press release here.  

On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee approved a $24 billion Agriculture appropriations spending bill for fiscal year 2021. The bill, which funds the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Farm Credit Administration, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Food and Drug Administration, provides for a $487 million increase above the fiscal year 2020 enacted level. Among details, the bill includes: $1.07 billion—$27 million above the 2020 enacted level—for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and $3.3 billion—$90 million above the 2020 enacted level—for the Agriculture Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. An amendment was approved that requires the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to complete within one year an analysis of the latest version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, with a focus on the methodology used, and comparing it to what the National Academies recommended in 2017. The guidelines are expected to be issued by the end of the year. The spending bill now heads to the House floor. In related news, the fiscal year 2021 funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, which was approved this week by the House Appropriations Subcommittee, includes $30 million for 200 agriculture inspectors as part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Agriculture inspectors at our land, air and seaports are our first line of defense to ensure African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases don’t enter the United States. 

On Wednesday, United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer and Kenya Cabinet Secretary for Industrialization, Trade, and Enterprise Development Betty Maina formally launched trade agreement negotiations. The first round of negotiations over the next two weeks is being conducted virtually, covering all aspects of a comprehensive trade agreement. In late April, NPPC submitted comments to USTR on a trade deal between the two countries, noting that an agreement has the potential for a significant increase in the demand for U.S. pork products, but import duties and all non-tariff barriers on U.S. pork need to be fully eliminated. “NPPC will give enthusiastic support to an FTA [free trade agreement] with Kenya that eliminates all tariffs on U.S. pork and allows for the import of pork using science-based and internationally recognized regulatory standards.” A copy of NPPC’s comments is available here