For the Week Ending November 17, 2017
PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR NAFTA GROWS AS TALKS RESUME
As a new round of NAFTA talks begins, public support for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is growing. According to a Pew Research poll, a majority of Americans (56 percent) now support the NAFTA, an increase from 33 percent based on previous surveys. In other NAFTA-related news this week:
- A bipartisan group of 76 House members challenged a Trump administration proposal to create a new U.S. content requirement for automobiles to qualify for tariff cuts. In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the members said the proposal would “eliminate the competitive advantages provided to the U.S. auto industry under the current NAFTA rules” and hamper the sector’s ability to compete globally.
- NPPC was among 150 food and agriculture organizations that signed a letter to U.S. governors, urging them to express their support for NAFTA to President Trump. The letter detailed the economic benefits of NAFTA realized by livestock agriculture, crops, dairy, spirits, beverages and a wide range of other products. NPPC also joined a letter to Lighthizer encouraging him to maintain current trucking provisions that facilitate agriculture trade between the United States and Mexico.
- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a public speaking appearance made comments reflecting the administration’s stance on the NAFTA renegotiation. He characterized the president’s position by saying, “His general point of view is no deal is better than a terrible deal.” Ross also asserted that aggressive public advocacy from industry sectors, such as agriculture, is complicating the renegotiation discussions.
- Mexico’s Economy Minister, Ildefonso Guajardo, said that Mexico will propose a review of NAFTA every five years. Unlike the Trump administration “sunset” proposal, the five-year review proposed by Mexico would not lead to an automatic withdrawal of the agreement if the countries don’t explicitly agree to extend it. He cited the importance of providing more investor certainty as the rationale for Mexico’s proposal.
- In a U.S. Department of Agriculture press release noting the third-highest volume of farm exports on record in fiscal 2017, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said, “U.S. agriculture depends on trade. It is great to see an increase in exports and we hope to open additional markets to build on this success. I’m a grow-it-and-sell-it kind of guy. If American agricultural producers keep growing it, USDA will keep helping to sell it around the world.”
TAX REFORM EFFORTS ROLL ON; HOUSE PASSES ‘TAX CUTS AND JOBS ACT’
The House of Representatives this week passed, H.R. 1, the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.” The bill includes several provisions supported by NPPC, including the expansion of both bonus depreciation and Section 179, removal of the alternative minimum tax, creation of new pass through rates and the consolidation of individual tax rates. NPPC will continue to advocate against elimination of the domestic production activities deduction (DPAD), limitations on business interest expense deductions for larger producers and the elimination of the net operating loss (NOL) carryback. The provisions are currently included in the bill. NPPC was among 179 signatories to a letter initiated by the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, urging Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to uphold the Section 199 deduction used by many agricultural co-ops. The Senate late last week released its tax reform legislation. NPPC is evaluating the legislation. (Click here for an explanation of sections 179 and 199.)
U.S. CODEX OFFICE REORGANIZATION
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue this week notified Congress that the U.S. Codex Office will be relocated under the authority of the Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agriculture Affairs. The office is an interagency partnership that engages stakeholders in the development and advancement of science-based food standards and represents the United States with the U.N.’s Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international food-safety standards-setting body. As a member of the Food Industry Codex Coalition, NPPC supports the reorganization because it better positions the office to advance science-based standards for food and agricultural trade. The U.S. Codex Office was previously housed under the authority of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
CODEX COMMITTEE MEETS ON FOOD HYGIENE
The Committee on Food Hygiene of the U.N.’s Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international food-safety standards-setting body, convened this week in Chicago for its annual meeting. NPPC’s Courtney Knupp, director of international trade policy, sanitary & technical issues, attended the meeting as a member of the U.S. delegation. During the meeting, NPPC agreed to provide technical input for updates to the General Principles of Food Hygiene and its HACCP Annex. In addition, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and its World Health Organization (WHO) presented a paper on shigatoxin-producing E. coli in livestock. While pork is not among the four commodities addressed in the paper, the delegation agreed that the scope of the paper should be expanded to consider all commodities by next year’s meeting.
SWINE VETERINARIANS ADVOCATE ON THE HILL
Members of NPPC’s Swine Veterinarians Public Policy Advocacy Program recently visited Washington, D.C., to educate members of Congress on important pork industry issues. Thirteen swine veterinarians visited 27 members of Congress over two days to discuss the importance of 2018 Farm Bill funding for a Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine bank. They also advocated for the importance of maintaining the NAFTA and for visa reform to provide an adequate agricultural workforce. Elanco Animal Health and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians both supported the event.
CORKER-COONS LEGISLATION PASSED BY COMMITTEE
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week held a formal mark-up for the “Multilateral Aid Review Act,” legislation introduced by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., Chis Coons, D-Del., and six colleagues. The legislation establishes a triennial review of international organizations to which the United States contributes, evaluating adherence to their core mission, activities, management effectiveness, efficiency and alignment with U.S. foreign policy. The Engaging America’s Leadership (EAGL) coalition, including NPPC, supports the legislation and will continue to work with Corker and Coons. The bill was passed unanimously by the committee.
U.S., UK TRADE AND INVESTMENT WORKNG GROUP MEET AHEAD OF ‘BREXIT’
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox met this week in London as part of the ongoing U.S.-U.K. Trade and Investment Working Group initiated in July to strengthen economic ties between the two countries. The purpose of the meeting was to further establish the foundation of a future trade deal between the countries ahead of the U.K.’s exit from the European Union – the so-called Brexit. Lighthizer said, “We look forward to building on our strong economic relationship to achieve free and fair trade and create good-paying jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.”
U.S. AG CENSUS ON THE HORIZON
American farmers and ranchers, including U.S. pork producers, will soon receive the 2017 Census of Agriculture. The questionnaire, distributed by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), can be returned via mail or by online submission forms. All submissions are due by Feb. 5, 2018.