For the Week Ending July 23, 2021

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In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, NPPC President Jen Sorenson urged Congress to address the agriculture labor shortage by expanding the H-2A visa program for year-round use without a cap. As she explained, U.S. pork production is a year-round effort, requiring a hardworking and dedicated workforce on farms and in processing plants. “Current visa programs designed for seasonal agriculture—such as the H-2A visa—fail to meet the workforce needs of U.S. pork producers and other year-round livestock farmers. Now more than ever, we need a dedicated, year-round workforce,” Sorenson told the committee. If not addressed, the labor shortage “could lead to farms and packing plants shutting down, causing serious financial harm to the communities in which they operate. As a result, pork production would be constrained, leading to higher food prices for consumers and the United States becoming an unreliable trading partner for the many countries around the world that rely on our pork,” she noted. A copy of her testimony is here. Sorenson’s hearing appearance follows the launch of NPPC’s “Year-Round Pork Needs Year-Round Workers” campaign earlier this month. The campaign features the stories of four foreign-born workers who make vital contributions to the U.S. pork industry and their communities. Learn more here

The city of Manteca, Calif., is joining the growing chorus of calls for the state to delay implementation of Proposition 12. Set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, Proposition 12 will impose arbitrary animal housing standards that reach far outside the state’s borders to farms across the country, while driving up costs for both pork producers and consumers. The state was required to finalize implementation regulations by September 2019. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) only issued the proposed regulations in May 2021. “We believe that without the appropriate time for out-of-state producers to comply, small, family-run California-owned businesses will be irreparably harmed. Implementing Proposition 12 in January 2022 would place undue financial strain and a competitive disadvantage on California businesses, including businesses in our city that are vital to the economic success and well-being of our residents,” wrote the city’s mayor in a July 20 letter to CFDA. Manteca is home to Sunnyvalley Smoked Meats, Inc., which sells bacon, ham, and various turkey products in California — comprising approximately 60% of their total business. “Their meat supply is contingent on out-of-state pork suppliers, and they generate tens of millions of dollars in economic activity annually for their community, including sales taxes, property taxes, and philanthropic activity….Unfortunately, Proposition 12 will have detrimental impacts on companies such as Sunnyvalley Smoked Meats and hinder businesses that are already struggling to stay afloat following mandated shutdowns,” the letter noted. In recent comments to CDFA’s proposed regulations, NPPC urged the state to delay the Proposition 12 implementation by at least two years from the date when the regulations are finalized. A copy of the letter is available here

On Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and State Bank of Vietnam Governor Nguyen Thi Hong announced a currency agreement that is likely to halt the immediate threat of punitive tariffs placed on the Asian nation. “I welcome the constructive dialogue between the Department of the Treasury and the State Bank of Vietnam on currency policy, and the mutual understanding we have reached,” said Secretary Yellen. “I believe the State Bank of Vietnam’s attention to these issues over time not only will address Treasury’s concerns, but also will support the further development of Vietnam’s financial markets and enhance its macroeconomic and financial resilience,” she added. Earlier this month, NPPC joined 75 other trade associations in urging the U.S. Trade Representative not to impose tariffs on Vietnamese products over currency concerns. In late December 2020, NPPC Assistant Vice President of International Affairs Maria Zieba testified that tariffs on Vietnamese imports would have left U.S. hog farmers vulnerable to retaliation on U.S. pork imports. Vietnam is a major pork-consuming nation dealing with African swine fever outbreaks in its domestic herd, with significant demand for imported pork. The U.S. does not have a free trade agreement with Vietnam and is at a competitive disadvantage to Canada, the EU, Mexico and other supplier nations. A number of non-tariff barriers act as an additional barrier on U.S. pork exports to Vietnam. Greater market access for U.S. pork in Vietnam is one of NPPC’s top priorities.  

The Senate on Wednesday failed to end debate on a bipartisan infrastructure package, following pressure by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to proceed to a vote on the measure. The motion, requiring 60 votes, was unable to secure a simple majority—51 votes—as Republicans unanimously rejected the vote because there was no final bill text. Optimism remains high for a deal, however disagreement remains on how lawmakers will pay for the package. Senate Republicans previously agreed to increased funding from the IRS to close the tax gap as a means of generating revenue, but have since retreated on this position. Negotiators are now looking for other funding. On the House side, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reiterated that her chamber will not consider the bipartisan infrastructure bill until budget reconciliation – which, as of now, is reported to include $3.5 trillion in “human infrastructure” funded by tax reform – is complete.  

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) announced this week a new audit program to assess carrier compliance with the agency’s rule on detention and demurrage. The just-launched “Vessel-Operating Common Carrier Audit Program,” will analyze the top nine carriers by market share for compliance with the rule, the agency explained. Last month, NPPC testified before a House Transportation Committee on how recent shipping delays at U.S. international ports are disrupting exports and if not soon addressed, could lead to serious bottlenecks for pork and other agriculture exports. Among recommendations to alleviate the port bottlenecks, NPPC urged for expanded operating hours for U.S. ports, and expedited FMC enforcement preventing unreasonable detention and demurrage financial penalties for exporters. Learn more about this week’s announcement here

Earlier this month, NPPC International Technical Services Specialist Dr. Trachelle Carr and Science and Technology Advisor Dr. Marie Bucko were among participants to virtually attend the 25th session of the CODEX Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods. Among issues, the committee agreed to further evaluate the establishment of Maximum Residue Levels (MRL) for Halquinol, an important animal drug to combat anti-microbial resistance for the control and treatment of a bacteria caused by E.coli in swine. Although currently not approved for use in the United States, establishing MRL for Halquinol would enable veterinarians to supervise its use in swine, ensuring the safe use of the compound. For more information about the CODEX meeting, visit here.  

NPPC joined 32 food and agriculture industry groups this week in urging the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to quickly hold a confirmation hearing on President Biden’s nomination of Ken Salazar to be U.S. Ambassador to Mexico. “We regard our nation’s relationship with Mexico to be of first order importance and submit that Senator Salazar is a proven statesman, with keen insights into this long, rich and complex bilateral relationship,” wrote the groups. Salazar, who was nominated last month, has previously served as interior secretary, Colorado senator and Colorado attorney general. Mexico is a top market for U.S. pork exports, sending $1.15 billion in U.S. pork last year to the country. The country is also part of the important U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, which gives U.S. pork producers certainty in two of our largest export markets and preserves zero-tariff pork trade in North America. A copy of the letter is available here

This week, NPPC joined 56 other agriculture groups in signing a letter of support for Robert Bonnie to be USDA under secretary for farm production and conservation. He is currently the deputy chief of staff and senior climate advisor at USDA. “Bonnie’s prior experiences show he is dedicated to serving U.S. agricultural producers, and improving the lands Americans depend on for food, fiber, water, recreation, and environmental enhancement. These experiences and his deep background knowledge make Bonnie uniquely qualified to serve as the USDA’s next under secretary for farm production and conservation,” the groups wrote to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-Ark.). Bonnie served as the undersecretary for natural resources and environment during the second term of the Obama administration, and in the first term, he served as senior advisor to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack for environment and climate change. The committee is holding a hearing on July 29 to consider Bonnie’s nomination. Meantime, earlier this month, NPPC joined 90 other agriculture groups in a letter of support for Jennifer Moffit as the administration’s nominee for under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs at USDA. Moffitt currently serves as undersecretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The committee held a hearing on her nomination last week. A copy of the letter is available here.

On Tuesday, July 27, the Senate Finance Committee is holding a hearing to review the implementation and enforcement of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) agreement. USMCA provides U.S. pork producers with certainty in two of our largest export markets and preserves zero-tariff pork trade in North America. The hearing, which begins at 9:30am ET, can be viewed here.