For the Week Ending November 12, 2021
USDA TO ALLOW FASTER LINE SPEEDS AT PORK PLANTS
In a big win for the U.S. pork industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced it will allow some pork packing plants to run faster line speeds, a move that could increase packing capacity and alleviate supply issues in the face of strong demand. Nine plants that adopted USDA’s 2019 New Swine Inspection System (NSIS) may apply for a one-year trial program to use faster line speeds, during which they will need to collect data on the effects of line speeds on workers and share it with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In March, a U.S. District Court in Minnesota struck down the NSIS line speeds provision, arguing that USDA did not consider worker safety in promulgating the final rule. But six of the NSIS plants for more than 20 years had been operating faster line speeds through the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP), a program begun in 1997 under the Clinton administration. When the court’s NSIS ruling took effect on July 1, 2021, the pork industry lost 2.5 percent of its harvest capacity, according to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes. Since the court’s decision, NPPC has been urging the Biden administration to reinstate the use of faster line speeds either by appealing the court ruling or exercising its waiver authority. (Read NPPC’s news release here.)
BIG VICTORY FOR LIVESTOCK HAULERS IN HOUSE INFRASTRUCTURE BILL
NPPC secured a huge victory for livestock haulers in the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill, which the House approved last week. A provision in the legislation expands the miles agricultural truckers can drive without the restrictions of the federal Hours of Service (HOS) rule, which limits commercial truckers to 11 hours of driving time and 14 consecutive hours of on-duty time in any 24-hour period. Drivers hauling livestock already were exempt from the HOS rule for the first 150 miles. Now they also are exempt for the final 150 miles to their destination. The $1.2 trillion, five-year infrastructure bill also has funds for repairing and building roads, bridges, railways, ports and waterways – all of which are vital to getting agricultural products to markets – and for other major infrastructure projects, including rural broadband. The Senate in August passed its infrastructure bill.
PHILIPPINES LABELING REQUIREMENTS FOR IMPORTED MEAT, POULTRY PUT ON HOLD
The Philippine Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal Industry and the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) late last week issued a joint memorandum that indefinitely extends the moratorium on implementation on the strict implementation of minimum labeling requirements for imported meat and poultry until current guidelines and regulations are reviewed and amended. In late October, NMIS released new guidelines on meat and poultry labeling, adding a requirement that labels include both the date of manufacture – manufacture, production or slaughter – and packaging; previously only one of those was required. NPPC and other groups representing meat and poultry exporters raised concerns about the guidelines, and NMIS extended the moratorium Nov. 4. U.S. pork exports to the Philippines have increased significantly, rising by nearly $185 million in the first eight months of 2021, a 157 percent hike from the year before. With the extension of the moratorium, NPPC finds this a positive step to maintaining our market access.
CONCERNS RAISED OVER VACCINE MANDATE’S EFFECT ON USDA MEAT INSPECTORS
In a letter sent Wednesday to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, NPPC, along with the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Turkey Federation, raised concerns about the effects on USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and other USDA personnel of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Implementation of the mandate, the organizations pointed out, may lead to a loss of some FSIS meat inspectors, resulting in packing plant disruptions and closures. They noted that the meatpacking industry already has limited harvest capacity because of increasing demand for meat and poultry, a severe labor shortage in rural communities and pandemic-related supply chain challenges. The agricultural groups asked for “clarification on how USDA will mitigate potential disruptions in staffing with the implementation of this [vaccine] directive.” (Click here to read the letter.)
NPPC WEIGHS IN ON PROPOSED RULE FOR LABELING CELL-CULTURED PROTEIN
In comments recently submitted to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), NPPC asked the agency to ensure that the name or statement of identify of foods comprised of or containing cultured animal protein cells is clear and transparent as to the source of the food and how it was created so consumers can make informed choices. FSIS is proposing regulations for labeling meat and poultry products comprised of or containing cultured animal cells. The agency should “avoid terms that either inadequately describe the nature of the product or those, such as ’cell based,’ that are so broad as to include actual meat or poultry products in their descriptions,” said NPPC, adding that “cell-cultured products designed to mimic real meat must face the same stringent regulatory requirements as livestock agriculture, including truthful labeling standards.” The organization pointed out that federal law prohibits labeling that is misleading and offering food for sale under the name of another food. Cell-cultured foods, NPPC said, “should be named or described in a way that informs consumers about how the animal cells were produced.” (Click here to read the comments.)
NPPC CHALLENGES PORK PRODUCERS TO PARTICIPATE IN ‘GIVE-A-HAM’ CHALLENGE
NPPC’s fourth annual national “Give-A-Ham” challenge to benefit food banks and pantries around the country is underway, and the organization is urging pork producers to participate in it. The campaign, which runs through the end of the year, in 2020 saw more than 15 million pounds of pork donated to help those in need. “This challenge is a holiday tradition and one that is my favorite,” said NPPC President Jen Sorenson. “It reflects how this country’s 60,000 pork producers – who work so hard to raise safe and nutritious protein – are also practicing one of our ‘We Care’ principles: giving back to our communities and being good neighbors.”
APPLICATIONS FOR PORK INDUSTRY SCHOLARSHIPS BEING ACCEPTED
NPPC is accepting applications for the 2022 Lois Britt Memorial Pork Industry Scholarship, which is sponsored by CME Group and managed and administered by NPPC. The program, introduced in 1990 by CME Group and NPPC and named in 2006 in honor of the late-NPPC board member Lois Britt, awards 10 $2,500 scholarships annually to college students who intend to pursue a career in the pork industry, with hopes they will become pork industry leaders. All entries must be sent by Jan. 3, 2022, to be accepted. (Click here for more information, including where to submit applications.)