For the Week Ending May 20, 2022
May 20, 2022
MEATPACKING SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR BILL SENT TO FULL HOUSE FOR VOTE
The House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday advanced the “Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act,” H.R. 7606, to the House floor for a vote. The bill would create a special investigator at USDA to bring civil actions for violations of the Packers & Stockyards Act (PSA), which ensures fair competition and fair trade practices in the livestock and poultry industries. A companion bill, S. 3870, is pending in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. The House agriculture panel vote, largely along party lines, followed a contentious debate between the bill’s lead sponsor, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), and committee Republicans, who argued that the new position would be duplicative of existing Department of Justice authority and raise consumer meat prices. In comments on the legislation, NPPC noted that:
- The DOJ is in a better position to pursue civil actions.
- The Packers and Stockyards Division of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service already has authority to investigate violations of the PSA.
- There is no data supporting the Biden administration’s claims on meatpacking consolidation.
- A new PSA regulation that could change USDA’s legal position related to buying and selling livestock and poultry is expected to be issued soon.
HONDURAS WANTS ‘REVIEW’ OF TRADE AGREEMENT WITH U.S.
Honduran President Xiomara Castro in a recent speech said she wants to review her country’s 2004 trade agreement with the United States. Honduras is part of the multilateral deal known as the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), which also includes Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. She said the agreement “seriously limits our freedom to reach sovereignty” in the agriculture sector and complained that under the trade deal Honduras is restricted from taxing “subsidized” U.S. agricultural products coming into its market. (The U.S. government does provide farm loan guarantees, some financial support for risk management programs — crop insurance and margin coverage — and disaster assistance.) NPPC was a strong proponent of the trade pact, which eliminated tariffs on U.S. pork exports to the DR-CAFTA countries. Last year, the U.S. pork industry shipped nearly $115 million of pork to Honduras.
BILL WOULD CREATE GRANT PROGRAM FOR SMALLER MEAT FACILITIES
Legislation that would set up a USDA grant program for the expansion or construction of small, regional, and independent meat facilities was approved this week by the House Agriculture Committee. The “Butcher Block Act,” sponsored by Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), also would establish grants for increasing hiring and capacity at meatpacking and processing plants. Although smaller facilities are an important part of the meat supply chain, NPPC has urged USDA to focus on larger, more efficient — and federally inspected — operations, pointing out in comments on the agency’s efforts to increase capacity that “studies suggest that larger plants significantly benefit from economies of scale.” In March, USDA made grant funding of $150 million — out of a $375 million total — available for increasing packing capacity, with individual grants of up to $25 million. The remaining $225 million will be available this summer, along with $275 million in lending capital.
NPPC COMMENTS ON DIETARY GUIDELINES
In comments submitted this week to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NPPC encouraged the agency to review the impact of low-carbohydrate dietary patterns on weight, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The comments were submitted as part of the review of scientific questions to be examined in support of the 2025-2030 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). HHS and USDA write the guidelines every five years, with input from an advisory committee informed by stakeholders and the public. In its comments, NPPC also commended the advisory committee for recognizing that the topic of sustainability is outside of the scope of the DGA and is better addressed through other programs.
PRESIDENT TO LAUNCH INDO-PACIFIC TRADE INITIATIVE
President Biden today through Tuesday will be in South Korea and Japan, meeting with leaders of those countries on security issues and kicking off the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), a trade initiative to forge closer ties with nations in the Asia-Pacific region. Last November, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai held exploratory IPEF talks with Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea. The administration wants the initiative to focus on supply chain issues, clean energy and climate change, infrastructure, and taxation and anti-corruption. NPPC has been urging the White House to pursue a more ambitious deal, one that includes agricultural market access. Last week, a group of senators expressed to Tai and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack concerns that the United States “is foregoing America’s trade and strategic leadership by failing to pursue [market access] commitments,” including in the IPEF.
TAYLOR NOMINATED FOR USDA TRADE AND FOREIGN AGRICULTURE POST
President Biden has nominated Alexis Taylor to be USDA’s Under Secretary of Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs. Taylor, who currently serves as director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, previously was deputy undersecretary of USDA’s Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services and chief of staff to the FFAS undersecretary and adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack during the Obama administration. Prior to that, she handled agricultural issues and trade policy for Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA) An Iowa native, Taylor received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Iowa State University. After graduating, she served in the U.S Army Reserves for eight years. NPPC supports Taylor’s nomination and is urging the Senate to quickly confirm her.
NPPC’S MOGLER EXPLAINS PROP. 12’S EFFECTS
NPPC board member Dwight Mogler, a pork producer from Alvord, IA, this week was featured in a CNBC segment on California’s Proposition 12, which bans pork that’s not produced according to its arbitrary standards. Mogler, who invested more than $12 million in his state-of-art operation, said changing his production system to comply with Prop. 12 would jeopardize the well-being of his animals, particularly at times when they are most vulnerable. NPPC is challenging Prop. 12 in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. (Click here to read more on the CNBC story.)
NPPC’S FORMICA PICKED FOR VA. WILDLIFE RESOURCES BOARD
Michael Formica, NPPC’s assistant vice president and general counsel, last Friday was appointed to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) Board by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. The DWR is responsible for managing the state’s inland fisheries, wildlife, and recreational boating. Formica, a long-time Virginia resident and avid hunter and fisherman, will represent the commonwealth’s Region 4 wildlife area – the northern top of the state. The 11-member board is comprised of Virginia citizens who are knowledgeable of wildlife conservation, hunting, fishing, boating, agriculture, forestry, or habitat.
WORLD PORK EXPO JUNE 8-10
NPPC’s annual World Pork Expo will be held June 8-10 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. For more information about and to register for the world’s largest pork industry trade show and exhibition, click here.