For the Week Ending July 31, 2020

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On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) released the initial proposal for the next COVID-19 economic recovery package, which included $20 billion for agriculture, covering both direct payments and compensation for livestock farmers for the cost of euthanizing hogs due to the COVID crisis. NPPC appreciates that Republican leadership has included funding to compensate producers for euthanizing hogs due to COVID-related supply chain disruptions, and will continue to urge for wholesale inclusion of the RELIEF for Producers Act in the final relief package. The RELIEF for Producers Act was introduced earlier this month by Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and since then has added three more co-sponsors: Sens. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.). The Senate COVID proposal also a) includes $245 million in additional funding for Agriculture Quarantine Inspection at U.S. borders, addressing a funding shortfall which NPPC recently highlighted to Congress (for more information, click here) and b) addresses Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) eligibility for farmers and ranchers who are sole proprietors. Under current language, PPP eligibility for sole proprietors is determined by net profit taken from the 2019 IRS Schedule F form. For many U.S. pork producers, 2019 was not profitable as they bore the brunt of trade retaliation in China and Mexico, among two of our largest export markets. The package allows producers filing a Schedule F to use their 2019 gross income (up to $100,000) when calculating their PPP loan rather than net income. Senate leadership is hoping to pass the next COVID package in the next several weeks. 

In May, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) proposed a new National List of Reportable Animal Diseases (NLRAD) to further strengthen the country’s ability to detect, respond to and control animal diseases. The list would provide a consolidated, comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure federal and state animal health officials quickly receive information about potential cases of communicable animal diseases, the agency explained. In joint comments submitted to APHIS this week, NPPC, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) and the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) said while they support the establishment of a NLRAD that consists of named animal diseases and conditions with established case definitions, a separate portal should be created to collect voluntary reports of suspicious animal health events. “NPPC, AASV and SHIC concur with APHIS that under-reporting of notifiable animal diseases within the United States can have significant domestic and international ramifications. However, it must be acknowledged that false or premature reports can similarly have damaging consequences. For these reasons, animal health professionals, or indeed any individuals other than veterinarians, should not be obligated to report under the NLRAD when they are not credentialled to make a diagnosis of a specific animal disease,” the groups wrote.  The groups also noted they can only support mandating state reporting of monitored animal diseases if both APHIS and states have the necessary resources to compile and transmit this information electronically, and if APHIS has the resources to analyze the information when making it publicly available. Read the full comments here.

HOUSE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE ADDS TWO REPUBLICAN MEMBERS On Thursday, the House Agriculture Committee added two Republican members, Reps. Chris Jacobs (NY) and Troy Balderson (Ohio). Balderson, who also sits on the House committees on Transportation and Infrastructure, Science, Space and Technology and Small Business, joined Congress in September 2018 after a special election to replace former Ohio Rep. Pat Tiberi. Jacobs was sworn in last week to replace Rep. Chris Collins. “Both understand the importance of supporting our farm families, and I look forward to working alongside Chris and Troy on behalf of rural America,” said House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Michael Conaway (R-Texas).