For the Week Ending June 14, 2019

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On Tuesday, NPPC Vice President and Counsel of Global Government Affairs Nick Giordano spoke at a Global Business Dialogue event at the National Press Club, outlining how expanding U.S. export opportunities is vital to the success of U.S. pork producers. However, trade disputes are hampering growth and causing severe financial harm. “Mostly because of free trade agreements, the United States is the leading global exporter of pork. As a result, U.S. pork is an attractive candidate for trade retaliation. America’s hog farmers – and many other sectors of U.S. agriculture – have been at the tip of the trade retaliation spear for more than a year,” he said. While Mexico’s 20 percent retaliatory tariff on U.S. pork was recently lifted, America’s producers still face a stifling 62 percent tariff into China. There are enormous trade opportunities with China, especially to help offset reduced domestic production due to African swine fever (ASF), a pig-only disease with no vaccine treatment that poses no human health or food safety risks, but that is almost always fatal for hogs. “But for the retaliatory duties, the United States would be in a perfect position to take advantage of this massive import surge in the world’s largest pork-consuming nation and single handedly put a huge dent in the U.S. trade imbalance with China,” he said. “China needs reliable suppliers of pork now, and likely, well into the future. The question U.S. hog farmers are asking: ‘Will we get the main course, or will we get the crumbs off the table?’” he added. To read NPPC’s full release on Giordano’s remarks, click here


On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order (EO) to streamline regulations for agriculture biotechnology, based on recommendations by the administration’s Rural Development Taskforce. The EO provides a framework to support leadership in emerging technologies such as gene editing for livestock, an innovation that promises to eliminate costly diseases that cause animal suffering, lower the need to use antibiotics and to further reduce agriculture’s environmental impact. The EO directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to collaborate on common sense regulations and to develop awareness and education programs to gain acceptance of new technologies by consumers and global trading partners. “The United States is falling behind countries such as Canada, Brazil and China that have established regulatory frameworks conducive to investment in the development of gene editing,” said NPPC President David Herring, a pork producer from Lillington, N.C. “We are hopeful that this executive order breaks the FDA’s current grip on gene editing so a regulatory framework can be established at the USDA to ensure that American farmers – not our competitors in foreign markets – realize its vast potential.” NPPC will launch a new campaign, Keep America First in Agriculture, later this month to broaden awareness and understanding of gene editing’s promise for livestock agriculture. Read NPPC’s full press release here.


By voice vote on Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment by Rep. Henry Cueller (D-Texas) to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would reform the H-2A visa program to include year-round agricultural workers. NPPC has been a strong supporter of these reform efforts. America’s pig farmers and plant operators need a reliable workforce in order to continue providing the highest standards of animal care, and a steady, affordable, safe supply of pork for American consumers. Currently the industry is suffering from a serious labor shortage that must be addressed through visa system reform. 


NPPC Director of International Affairs Maria Zieba spoke at an Atlantic Council event in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, discussing trade relations with Mexico. The Mexican market represented over 30% of total U.S. pork exports last year. In her remarks, Zieba talked about the importance of the Mexican market to U.S. pork producers, the effects of the 20% retaliatory tariffs that Mexico recently lifted, and the need to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and move forward in negotiating agreements with other countries, including Japan. Meantime, NPPC joined nearly 1,000 food and agriculture organizations that sent a letter to congressional leaders on Tuesday, urging for quick ratification of USMCA. “USMCA will benefit the U.S. agriculture and food industry while providing consumers a more abundant supply of high-quality, safe food at affordable prices,” the letter noted. U.S. pork exports totaled $6.4 billion last year; 40% of those exports went to Mexico and Canada. NPPC continues to urge ratification of USMCA. 


The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture held a hearing Tuesday on the state of U.S agricultural products in international markets. During the hearing, Ted McKinney, USDA’s undersecretary for trade and foreign agriculture, and Gregg Doud, chief agricultural negotiator at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, testified that the administration’s top legislative priority is passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Exports to Canada and Mexico support 16,000 U.S. jobs in the pork sector. During the hearing, Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) asked if USTR could help Taiwan purchase pork products. In response, Doud said the agency is working with Taiwan on the issue and are holding meetings this week. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) asked about the impact of African swine fever in China and in response, McKinney said the U.S. is looking at extensive defensive measures to protect against the disease, while simultaneously providing pork to China. Meantime, in his remarks, McKinney noted that the administration’s second tranche of trade relief in response to the U.S. trade dispute with China is under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget. The $16 billion trade relief package includes direct payments to qualifying pork producers, pork surplus purchases for the benefit of low-income families and others in need, and additional funding to develop new export opportunities. The amount of farmer payments and commodity purchases will be announced at a later date.


NPPC, together with Farm Bureau, National Corn Growers Association and other members of the Ag Nutrient Policy Council, recently submitted comments to EPA on the regulation of groundwater. Specifically, the comments were on EPA’s Interpretive Statement addressing whether the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit program applies to releases of pollutants from point sources to groundwater. “We strongly support EPA’s conclusion that ‘the Act is best read as excluding all releases of pollutants from a point source to groundwater from NPDES program coverage and liability under Section 301 of the CWA, regardless of a hydrologic connection between the groundwater and a jurisdictional surface water,’” according to the joint comments. “We therefore urge EPA to follow through on its stated intent to conduct a rulemaking in the near future that codifies the agency’s current position on the proper scope of CWA regulation: that Congress excluded all releases of pollutants from a point source to groundwater from NPDES program coverage and liability under Section 301 of the CWA, regardless of whether there is a hydrologic connection between the groundwater and ‘waters of the United States,’” the comments noted. 


NPPC Past President Randy Spronk (Minnesota) has been appointed to represent NPPC on the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee, USDA announced on Tuesday. The Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee provides advice and information to the Secretary of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative on the administration of trade policy, including enforcement of existing trade agreements and negotiating objectives for new trade agreements. Spronk replaces Past President Jon Caspers (Iowa) on the committee and joins past president Howard Hill (Iowa), who currently serves on the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products. Spronk will serve until June 15, 2023.