For the Week Ending June 22, 2018

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The U.S. House of Representatives this week passed the “Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018.” The new Farm Bill includes several provisions important to U.S. pork producers, including language establishing and funding a Foot-and-Mouth Disease vaccine bank. NPPC is asking lawmakers for funding in each year of the next Farm Bill of $250 million – $150 million for the vaccine bank, $70 million for state block grants for disease prevention and $30 million for the network of laboratories that provide disease diagnostic support. The House version of the five-year agricultural blueprint, however, includes those amounts only for the first year; for each of the other years, it has $30 million for state block grants and $20 million to be used at the Agriculture secretary’s discretion for the grants, labs and the vaccine bank. The bill also includes funding for the NPPC-supported Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program, both of which help support exports markets for U.S. goods. The programs are consolidated as the International Market Development Program. NPPC now is urging the Senate to pass its version quickly and to include full five-year funding for the FMD vaccine bank. The Senate Agriculture Committee bill establishes a vaccine bank but includes money only for the labs.



NPPC this week at a hearing at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative called for Thailand’s preferential access to the U.S. market to be revoked or reduced if it does not end its unwarranted ban on U.S. pork. Thailand is a top beneficiary of the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, which gives duty-free treatment to certain goods entering 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. Thailand bans pork produced with ractopamine, a feed ingredient approved for use after numerous scientific assessments by world health organizations declared it safe. Thailand also does not import uncooked pork and pork offal from the United States, even though it imports these products from other international suppliers. Other obstacles include excessive import permit fees and high tariffs on agricultural products. Following an NPPC petition, USTR in May agreed to review Thailand’s eligibility for the U.S. GSP program. A letter signed by more than 40 members of the House of Representatives was also sent to Thailand’s ambassador to the United States, calling for the removal of restrictions on imports of U.S. farm products, including pork. U.S. pork producers currently face retaliatory tariffs in key export markets, such as China and Mexico, at a time of peak production levels. It’s critical that new export markets, including Thailand, are opened for U.S. pork and other agriculture sectors. A briefing detailing NPPC’s position on Thailand’s GSP benefits is available here.



The Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy, and Trade held a hearing on Thursday to discuss the impacts and challenges of federal regulations on small American farmers. John Weber, past president of NPPC and owner of Valley Lane Farms Inc., testified on the burdens and costs regulations bring to small farms. The U.S. pork industry has had to contend with several ill-conceived, burdensome and potentially costly regulations over the past 10 years, including ones related to the buying and selling of livestock, labeling meat, trucking, air emissions, clean water, antibiotics use and organic livestock production. NPPC wants Congress to help reduce the regulatory burden on U.S. pork producers and American agriculture by increasing accountability and transparency in the federal regulatory process, broadening the scope of required economic analyses, requiring agencies to work with key stakeholders throughout the rulemaking process and strengthening congressional oversight. Read NPPC’s written testimony here.



The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday held a hearing to discuss the current and proposed tariff actions taken by the Trump administration. Earlier this year, the White House imposed a 10 percent duty on steel and aluminum imports from certain countries, citing national security. (The administration raised concerns about U.S. reliance on imported steel for defense systems.) Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, in his opening remarks said, “The negative consequences of the steel and aluminum tariffs are not isolated to manufacturing. Rather, the effects have spread throughout the economy. Take, for example, American farmers, who are bearing the brunt of retaliation for these actions.” Hatch noted that U.S. pork producers have been hit with retaliatory tariffs of 25 percent from China and 10 percent from Mexico, two of the U.S. pork industry’s top three export markets.



The U.S. House today rejected the Agricultural Guestworker Act (AG Act), H.R. 4092, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. In addition to providing funding for a wall along the southern border, ending the diversity visa lottery program and limiting family-based visas, the legislation would have established a H-2C visa program allowing non-seasonal agriculture workers to remain in the United States for up to three years.  The bill, supported by NPPC, failed with a vote of 193 to 231. NPPC continues to advocate for visa reform that will address the current agricultural labor shortage for the U.S. pork industry needs a stable workforce to ensure animal care standards are maintained and producers are able to remain globally competitive.