For the Week Ending November 2, 2018

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Australia this week became the sixth country to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), an 11-country trade deal that formerly was known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and that included the United States. Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore ratified the agreement earlier this year. The agreement will now enter into force on Dec. 30. NPPC continues to advocate strongly for a trade agreement with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam to offset potential lost market share for U.S. pork because of the CPTPP.



NPPC this week applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its proposed rule exempting livestock farmers from reporting to state and local authorities the routine emissions from their farms. The rule is the final piece in the implementation of the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method, or FARM, Act fixing a problem created in April 2017 when a U.S. Court of Appeals rejected a 2008 EPA rule that exempted farmers from reporting routine farm emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). The court decision, which would have forced tens of thousands of livestock farmers to “guesstimate” and report the emissions from manure on their farms to the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center and subjected them to citizen lawsuits from activist groups, also would have required all livestock farmers, not just large ones, to notify first responders about emissions under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). EPA’s proposed rule would exempt all livestock farmers from EPCRA reporting.



The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth District this week struck down a gag order related to North Carolina hog farm nuisance lawsuits brought against Murphy-Brown, the hog production subsidiary of Smithfield Foods. The court said the gag order, which prohibited lawyers or anyone with knowledge of conditions of North Carolina hog operations from sharing information, violated the First Amendment. Judge Earl Britt, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, in late June imposed the gag order on the parties, lawyers and potential witnesses in the lawsuits. Britt said a “significant increase in trial publicity” and the “volume and scope of prejudicial publicity” about the first two cases – one decided in early May and the other two days after the gag order was implemented – could taint future jurors. (More than a dozen nuisance suits were filed.) NPPC and the North Carolina Pork Council (NCPC) in August filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of lifting the gag order. NPPC and NCPC argued that there is no compelling need for the gag order, the District Court did not consider alternatives to the order – including the jury selection process or jury instructions – the order is overbroad and vague and it won’t be effective. On the latter point, they said it’s “not reasonable to think that any gag order will reduce coverage of these cases or blunt the public’s interest” in them. The appeals court issued its decision even though the District Court judge lifted the gag order Aug. 31.



The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week announced the Plant and Animal Biotechnology Innovation Action Plan that prioritizes three areas: 1) advancing human and animal health by promoting product innovation and applying modern, efficient and risk-based regulatory pathways; 2) strengthening public outreach and communication regarding the FDA’s approach to innovative plant and animal biotechnology; and 3) increasing engagement with domestic and international partners on biotechnology issues. The plan will begin with the FDA adopting a comprehensive policy framework for the development and regulatory oversight of animal biotechnology products, including genetically engineered animals and the products derived from them. The agency also will publish two guidance documents next year on how its regulatory oversight will be used to evaluate new animal biotechnology products. In addition, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine will hold a public webinar on Dec. 3 to discuss gene editing in animals. The plan is meant to assist the agency in ensuring the safety of animal and plant biotechnology products. NPPC supports shifting regulatory oversight of gene editing in agricultural animals from the FDA to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which already regulates it in plants, can ensure proper and risk-based regulatory review under the Animal Health Protection Act. FDA would treat gene edited livestock as animal drugs – and the farms that produce them potentially as drug manufacturing facilities – subject to lengthy and costly approval processes. That, says NPPC, would have a chilling effect on the technology.