For the Week Ending May 22, 2020
USDA RELEASES CFAP DETAILS
On Tuesday, USDA formally unveiled details of its Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which provides direct payments to farmers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. The program includes $3 billion in planned agricultural product purchases and $1.6 billion in direct payments to hog farmers. Direct support sign-ups will begin on May 26, through local Farm Service Agency offices. NPPC appreciates that the program appears that it will reach more producers than the USDA’s relief program for hog farmers who suffered losses due to trade retaliation. NPPC continues to advocate for solutions to sustain pork producers through a crisis that, without additional government intervention, will likely lead to consolidation and contraction in a highly competitive farm sector. NPPC continues to advocate for passage of the livestock agriculture provisions in the HEROES Act, which include 1) compensation for euthanized livestock that can’t be processed into the food supply due to COVID-related packing plant capacity reductions; 2) Expanded direct payments to livestock farmers who have suffered severe losses as COVID-related market disruptions have caused the value of their livestock to plummet. In USDA implementation of this program; and 3) Increased funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories, which have been tapped to perform COVID-19 testing during this human health emergency. The House recently passed the legislation and we encourage the Senate to quickly pass companion legislation that includes these provisions. For more information, visit https://nppc.org/issues/issue/your-food-is-our-priority/.
HOUSE TO VOTE NEXT WEEK ON PPP OVERHAUL
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) plans to schedule a vote next week on legislation that would overhaul the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), the Small Business Administration (SBA)-backed loans designed to help small businesses affected by COVID-19. The bill, by Reps. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas), would provide businesses with greater flexibility in how they use the PPP funds and still have their loans forgiven. It would expand the amount of time businesses have to spend the money from eight to 24 weeks and eliminate a requirement that businesses need to spend at least 75 percent of the funds on payroll if they want the full loan amount to be forgiven. The PPP still limits businesses to fewer than 500 employees. NPPC continues to advocate for small and mid-sized hog farms to receive an exemption on the number of employees to ensure they qualify to be eligible for the PPP. Please note that the SBA has been sending loan forgiveness documents to participants. It’s important producers work with their lenders and accountants on completing those forms as they are complex; improper documentation could result in a rejection of the loan forgiveness.
U.S.-U.K. TRADE NEGOTIATIONS TO CONTINUE NEXT MONTH
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and United Kingdom International Trade Secretary Liz Truss Trade recently concluded their first round of trade negotiations. The meetings, conducted virtually, included nearly 30 different negotiating groups covering all aspects of a trade agreement, including market access for goods and agriculture. A second virtual round of negotiations will be held the weeks of June 15 and 22. The UK also announced its new most-favored-nation (MFN) tariff regime this week. NPPC submitted comments in February, but the new MFN rates remain high for U.S. pork, highlighting the importance of a free trade agreement with the UK that eliminates all tariffs on pork. In October 2018, the Trump administration announced its intention to negotiate a trade agreement with the U.K. NPPC is supportive of negotiations, provided the agreement eliminates tariff and non-tariff trade barriers on pork.
NPPC JOINS AMICUS BRIEF OPPOSED TO COLORADO DECISION TO ALLOW ELECTRONIC SIGNATURES FOR BALLOT INITIATIVES
On Thursday, NPPC and the Colorado Pork Producers Council joined a diverse coalition in filing an amicus brief opposed to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ (D) decision to allow canvassing for ballot initiative signatures to take place electronically. The governor’s decision, which is in clear violation of the Colorado Constitution, would substantially lower the threshold for placing ballot initiatives before voters in this November’s election. It comes as the Human Society of the United States and other activist groups seek to place an initiative before Colorado voters that would be similar to California’s Proposition 12, which imposes animal housing standards that reach outside of the state’s borders to farms across the United States and beyond.
AG GROUPS URGE STATE DEPARTMENT TO FUND INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR COOPERATION ON AGRICULTURE
NPPC and more than 30 other food and agriculture associations sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week, urging his agency to fund and support the International Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), which promotes adoption of science-based policies and creates a favorable environment for agriculture leaders in the Western Hemisphere to collaborate on common priorities. “Increasingly, U.S. competitors seek to use trade agreements and international standards to advance national or regional interests and erect de facto prohibitions on importation of U.S. products,” the associations wrote. To help combat those efforts, the United States has proactively engaged with international organizations including the Codex Alimentarius Commission, World Organization for Animal Health and International Plant Protection Convention. “IICA plays a critical role ensuring these conditions exist. Continued U.S. investment in IICA will help the U.S. to expand its track record of success,” they explained.