For the Week Ending October 13, 2017

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An ad hoc coalition of businesses and agricultural organizations, including NPPC, met with members of Congress this week to reinforce the negative consequences of withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or otherwise impairing the enormous benefits realized by agriculture, the pork industry and other sectors of the U.S. economy. The coalition, which also included the Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Foreign Trade Council, the Coalition of Services Industries, and the American Farm Bureau Federation, met with members of the House and Senate. If NAFTA is terminated, the U.S. pork industry would lose $1.5 billion in exports to Mexico and Canada, the industry’s No. 2 and No. 4 markets, respectively. NPPC continues to aggressively advocate to do no harm in the NAFTA renegotiation and for maintaining zero-duty access for these critical markets.



Following his recent visit to the U.S., Thailand’s prime minister this week asked the country’s agriculture ministry to study the impact of allowing U.S. pork imports, according to a story in the Bangkok Post. Despite an overwhelming body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the safety of ractopamine, Thailand since 2007 has denied market access for U.S. pork based on an unscientific, zero-tolerance policy for this feed additive. Ractopamine has been determined to be safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is approved for use in pork production in 26 countries, with 75 additional countries allowing the import of pork from ractopamine-fed hogs even though it is not fed in their domestic herds. In July 2012, the U.N.’s Codex Alimentarius Commission, which sets international standards for food safety, approved a maximum residue limit (MRL) for ractopamine, which U.S. pork meets. NPPC continues to advocate for the removal Thailand’s ban on U.S. pork raised with ractopamine.



NPPC joined 115 other organizations in signing a letter to the Senate Finance Committee this week supporting Gregg Doud for the position of Chief Agricultural Negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative. Doud brings Kansas agricultural roots and experience in domestic and international trade policy for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, U.S. Wheat Associates, Commodity Markets Council and the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Signatories to the letter support his nomination because he will “develop and enforce reasonable trade agreements that support agricultural exports” and asked for his swift confirmation.



The San Francisco Board of Supervisors last week unanimously approved an ordinance that would require grocery chains of 25 or more stores – with at least one in the city – to provide the city with information on antibiotics use in animals whose meat and poultry they sell. The information would be made available to consumers through a city website. The board must take a second vote on the measure, but it is expected to again be approved. NPPC, which opposes the ordinance, said the likelihood is low that people will access the website to make buying decisions in the grocery. However, NPPC pointed out, the data collection mandate will add costs and complexities throughout the food supply chain, raising prices for consumers. Grocery companies must collect from their meat and poultry suppliers information on the purposes for which antibiotics were used, the number of animals raised, the total volume of antibiotics given and whether their use was “medically important.” The annual reporting requirement is set to begin early next April. Groups that supported the ordinance, including the Environmental Working Group and the Natural Resources Defense Council, have indicated they will push other cities to adopt similar laws.



Dr. James Roth, a professor and researcher at Iowa State University, accompanied by staff from NPPC and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), last week met with members of Congress to discuss the cost of establishing a vaccine bank for Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD). Roth, who met with leaders of the Senate and House agriculture committees and with Reps. David Rouzer, R-N.C., and Jim Costa, D-Calif. – the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Committee on Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture – has estimated that it would cost $150 million annually to bring vaccine availability to the level necessary to control an FMD outbreak in the United States. The current bank has only enough vaccine to deal with a small, localized outbreak. NPPC and NCBA are urging Congress to include in the next five-year Farm Bill language establishing and funding an offshore, vendor-managed FMD vaccine bank that could be used to address a medium- or large-scale outbreak.



The U.S. Supreme Court this week heard oral arguments in a case brought by NPPC and dozens of other agricultural organizations, businesses and municipalities against a Clean Water Act (CWA) rule that would give the government broad jurisdiction over land and water. The court is considering whether jurisdiction over the matter rests with the federal district or appellate courts. The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, which took effect Aug. 28, 2015, was proposed in April 2014 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clarify their authority over various waters. The regulation broadened the agencies’ control from “navigable” waters and waters with a significant hydrologic connection to navigable waters to include, among other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. It also covered lands adjacent to such waters. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati in October 2015 issued a stay on implementation of the regulation pending disposition of numerous lawsuits, including one joined by NPPC, filed in U.S. district courts around the country. Last year, however, the 6th Circuit consolidated the suits under its jurisdiction. NPPC and the other groups argued to the Supreme Court that U.S. district courts are the proper venue to hear challenges to the WOTUS rule. The high court is expected to issue its ruling in the case before its term ends next June. (EPA has proposed a regulation to repeal the WOTUS rule and to work with stakeholders on a regulation that’s workable and protects waterways.)




The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers next Tuesday from 1-3 p.m. Eastern will hold a teleconference to take input from agricultural stakeholders on revising the definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act. The agencies in 2014 proposed a WOTUS rule, which took effect Aug. 28, 2015, that broadened their jurisdiction over “navigable” waters to include, among other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. It also covered lands adjacent to such waters. Widespread opposition to the regulation, including from NPPC, prompted the Trump administration to rescind it. (EPA proposed a regulation to repeal the WOTUS rule and to work with stakeholders on a rule that’s workable and protects waterways.) The agencies also will accept written recommendations from the public; they must be received on or before Nov. 28. For more information on and to register for the agriculture teleconference and for information on submitting written recommendations, click here.