For the Week Ending March 5, 2021

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One of NPPC’s top priorities this year is labor reform to address the serious labor shortage on U.S. hog farms and in processing plants. Legislation introduced on Wednesday in the U.S. House of Representatives would reform the H-2A visa program to address the agricultural labor shortage. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act, introduced by Reps. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), would amend the H-2A program to allow a capped number of visas for farm workers to work year-round, among other provisions. “It’s no secret that there’s a labor shortage in our industry,” NPPC President Jen Sorenson, communications director for Iowa Select Farms in West Des Moines, Iowa, said in an interview with “Adams on Agriculture” on Thursday. “Livestock care is every single day. It’s not seasonal,” she added. Without visa reform to support a sustainable workforce, production costs may increase, which could lead to higher food prices for consumers, she noted. NPPC looks forward to working with Congress to enact meaningful labor reform that both opens the H-2A program to year-round labor without a cap and provides legal status for agricultural workers already in the country.  Read the full NPPC press release here.  

The Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR)—the Trump administration’s replacement for the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule—will go into effect in Colorado, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week. Colorado had been the only state to block the rule while it underwent a legal challenge. With this week’s ruling, the NWPR is now enforced nationally. Under the Obama administration in 2015, the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a new WOTUS rule that gave EPA broad jurisdiction over U.S. waters to include upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams. The WOTUS rule was immediately challenged in court and subject to several preliminary injunctions. NPPC supports the NWPR and has actively served in a leadership role in the litigation involving the 2015 WOTUS rule, as well as challenges to the NWPR. 

On Wednesday, NPPC elected new officers and members to its board of directors during its National Pork Industry Forum. Jen Sorenson was introduced as the 2021-2022 NPPC president. For the past decade, she has been with Iowa Select Farms, an Iowa farming business that markets more than five million hogs per year. She grew up on a livestock farm, raising pigs and row crops. In addition to serving on NPPC’s board, Sorenson chairs NPPC’s Labor Security Task Force. Sorenson takes over from Howard “AV” Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin, who becomes NPPC immediate past president and chairman of the council’s trade and nominating committees. Terry Wolters of Pipestone, Minn., was elevated to president-elect. Wolters owns Stoney Creek Farms, where he has ownership in several sow farms and is a partner in Pipestone System. Additionally, Scott Hays of Monroe City, Mo., was elected to serve as NPPC vice president. He is a fifth-generation pork producer and the CEO of Two Mile Pork, LLC. “Guided by their many years of experience and diverse backgrounds, Jen, Terry and Scott will bring new insight and enthusiasm to NPPC and our producers,” said NPPC CEO Neil Dierks. Read NPPC’s full press release here.  

The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday approved the nomination of Katherine Tai to be the next U.S. Trade Representative. During her confirmation hearing last week, she vowed to implement former President Trump’s trade deal with China, but also didn’t indicate a rush to finalize a U.S.-U.K. trade deal, or restart negotiations on rejoining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying she would need to review current negotiations. It’s unclear when the full Senate will vote on her nomination. In January, NPPC joined more than 100 national and state farm groups in sending a letter to Congress in support of her nomination.  

Last week, NPPC joined six other agriculture trade associations in filing a friend of court brief in opposition to a class action lawsuit filed by animal activists challenging terms such as “all natural” on the label of various Conagra products sold in California. Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) failed to protect consumers by approving what they view as false advertising claims on these products’ labels. This is the latest in a series of challenges these activists have filed around the country, attacking the consumer marketing of animal protein. The friend of court brief defends FSIS’ role and the ability to continue to sell pork and other animal protein products with approved FSIS labels. A copy of the amicus brief is available here.   

Al Deutsch, a longtime pork-industry stalwart who was instrumental in building NPPC’s Pork Alliance membership was inducted Wednesday into the organization’s Hall of Fame. Deutsch received the honor during the National Pork Industry Forum. “Those who have skin in the game could meet together and better understand each other’s issues and needs,” he explained. “I am most proud of the way it expanded the voice of the industry, while still staying true to its roots as a producer-run organization. Working together is better than working in silos,” he added. Thanks in part to Deutsch’s visionary leadership and volunteer efforts, there are now more than 100 members and partners of the NPPC Pork Alliance. “By expanding NPPC membership and broadening our base, we can better understand and serve the needs of our producers. For his ongoing leadership in our industry, we are pleased to induct Al into the Pork Industry Hall of Fame,” said NPPC CEO Neil Dierks. Read the full release here.

Missouri Pork Producers Association (MPPA) Executive Vice President Don Nikodim was presented on Wednesday with the Paulson-Whitmore State Executive Award at the National Pork Industry Forum. The award, named after former Minnesota and Wisconsin Executive Directors Don Paulson and Rex Whitmore, recognizes the outstanding leadership and commitment of state pork organization executives, and was jointly presented by NPPC and the National Pork Board. In his nearly 40 years at MPPA, Nikodim has helped expand pork promotion, education and public policy efforts in Missouri, was instrumental in navigating Missouri’s Right-to-Farm legislation to ensure common-sense policies for producers and has effectively addressed opposition from animal rights’ activists. “Throughout his career, Don Nikodim has been a well-respected, strong advocate for U.S. pork producers. His steady demeanor, fairness and insightful leadership have served the industry well for nearly four decades,” NPPC CEO Neil Dierks said. Read the full release here.

On Wednesday, NPPC awarded scholarships to 10 college students who intend to pursue careers in the pork industry. The Lois Britt Memorial Pork Industry Scholarship program is sponsored by CME Group and the National Pork Industry Foundation, and managed and administered by NPPC. The award was announced at NPPC’s annual National Pork Industry Forum. The 2021 winners of the $2,500 scholarships were: Don Banks, North Carolina State University; Claire Christensen, Iowa State University; Grace Christensen, Iowa State University; Carla Edleman, Iowa State University; Aly Francis, Oklahoma State University; Seth Mitchell, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Abigail Ross, Iowa State University; Leah Ruen, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities; Heather Snow, University of Missouri; and Isaac Wiley, Iowa State University. To read the full NPPC press release, click here