For the Week Ending October 30, 2020

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After approving Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court this week, the Senate adjourned until after Election Day, making it unlikely Congress will pass another COVID relief package before Nov. 3. For weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have been negotiating a possible compromise between the White House’s $1.9 trillion and the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion proposals, but they remain at an impasse. As Pelosi explained in a Thursday letter to Mnuchin, “The president’s words that ‘after the election, we will get the best stimulus package you have ever seen’ only have meaning if he can get Mitch McConnell to take his hand off the pause button and get Senate Republican chairmen moving toward agreement with their House counterparts.” U.S. hog farmers are facing billions in collective pandemic-related losses and NPPC continues to press for a COVID relief package that includes assistance for U.S. pork producers. “There are already producers who have gone out of business, both large and small,” NPPC President Howard “AV” Roth told Brownfield Ag News last week. Without federal assistance, we will lose more hog farmers and see our farm sector consolidate, he added.  

To recognize National Pork Month, NPPC is turning over its Hogs on the Hill blog to guest authors. In NPPC’s fourth and final guest submission for the month, North Carolina Pork Council Board Vice President Lorenda Overman discusses challenges North Carolina hog farmers face throughout the COVID crisis, the urgent need for Congressional relief and other pork producer priorities. “The pandemic has had a lasting, disruptive impact on our farm as we adjust to the tremendous loss of income due to the significantly reduced value of hogs marketed….All U.S. hog farmers are hurting, and we need help to weather this unprecedented crisis,” she wrote. Read the full blog here

The U.S. and the U.K. need to complete talks on a new free trade agreement (FTA) before the administration’s Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) expires, Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters Thursday. “It’s very necessary that this is hurried along either in another Trump administration or in a Biden administration, because TPA…is going to phase out the middle of next year. And if it is not done by then, it’s questionable when it will get done,” he said. The current TPA authorization expires on July 1, 2021, so a trade deal would have to be signed before then. Earlier this month, the U.S. and the UK began their fifth round of trade talks, in the hopes of soon completing an FTA. NPPC is supportive of negotiations, provided the agreement eliminates tariff and non-tariff trade barriers on pork, the U.K. acknowledges meat industry standards as equivalent and they agree to import product from all federally inspected facilities. 

On Thursday, NPPC provided comments to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) on significant barriers that U.S. pork exports face in various countries. “The United States is the top global exporter of pork, shipping nearly 2.6 million metric tons, valued at over $6.9 billion to more than 100 nations in 2019. Gaining and expanding access to markets around the world is paramount to the continued success of the U.S. pork industry,” NPPC wrote in its comments. Among the trade barriers outlined in the comments, Brazil has a de facto ban on U.S. pork that lacks any scientific justification and must be eliminated, U.S. pork exports to China face a 33 percent tariff and India remove its de facto ban on U.S. pork and pork products. USTR is compiling comments as it begins drafting its 2021 National Trade Estimates Report on Foreign Trade Barriers. Read NPPC’s full comments here

The United States this week announced its opposition of former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) new leader. Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination was set to move forward on Wednesday after gaining support from most WTO member states, but the United States became the sole country against her selection. Instead, the United States supports Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee as the next WTO director-general. “The WTO is badly in need of major reform. It must be led by someone with real, hands-on experience in the field,” said a statement from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The WTO has scheduled a Nov. 9 meeting to choose a new leader. The decision needs to be approved by consensus.  

The U.S. general election is Tuesday, Nov. 3. In addition to the presidential race between Republican President Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, thirty-five Senate seats (including special elections in Arizona and Georgia) and the entire 435-member U.S. House of Representatives are up for election.