For the Week Ending October 9, 2020

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On Wednesday, the scientists who invented one of the most promising forms of gene-edited technology –the “CRISPR/Cas9 genetic scissors” – were awarded the Nobel Prize. Unfortunately, the continued regulatory land grab by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in claiming jurisdiction over gene-edited livestock has caused American agriculture to fall behind in the global race to develop this technology as countries such as China continue to advance its development. “The National Pork Producers Council has repeatedly called for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to be granted regulatory oversight of gene-edited livestock. The USDA has the right experience and an established regulatory framework for gene-edited plants that can easily be extended to livestock,” said NPPC President Howard “AV” Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin. “The fact that these two women got the Nobel Prize highlights that the whole scientific community, and the world, really sees the potential in this technology,” NPPC Director of Science and Technology Dr. Dan Kovich told Brownfield [insert link]. “That’s why we really need to get some regulatory reform across the finish line, so the U.S.—and U.S. livestock agriculture in particular—doesn’t fall behind the rest of the world,” he added. Read the full NPPC press release here.   

COVID relief negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin remain ongoing, but an agreement remains uncertain. On Thursday, Pelosi objected to proceeding with a standalone measure to help airlines unless the administration also agreed to a broader aid package. “I have been very open to having a single standalone bill for the airlines or part of a bigger bill, but there is no standalone bill without a bigger bill,” she said. Last week, the Democrat-controlled House passed a $2.2 trillion aid package, but its chances in the Senate remain uncertain and Mnuchin previously countered with a $1.6 trillion proposal. However, midday on Friday, the White House indicated it had a new $1.8 trillion proposal. Pelosi and Mnuchin were expected to discuss the proposal later in the day. Meanwhile, earlier in the week, President Trump injected further uncertainty into the negotiations when he abruptly postponed talks until after the November election, but then reversed course on Thursday, noting negotiations have continued. NPPC continues to press for a deal that includes the following priorities: 1) compensation for euthanized and donated hogs; 2) additional funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories, which have appropriately assisted and shared resources with their public health partners; 3) modification of the Commodity Credit Corporation charter so a pandemic-driven national emergency qualifies for funding; 4) additional funds for direct payments to producers without restriction and; 5) extension of the Paycheck Protection Program with modifications to make it useful to more producers.

On Friday, the United Nation’s World Food Program was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The program was recognized for its role in addressing a growing food security challenge worldwide, including a surge in the number of victims of hunger caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and related food supply chain disruptions. According to Nobel Committee Chairwoman Berit Reiss-Andersen, “Until the day we have a medical vaccine, food is the best vaccine against chaos.” The essential U.S. pork production system remains committed to the nation’s food security. Last week, Smithfield sent a letter to local, state and federal leaders calling for prioritization of COVID-19 vaccine distribution to food and agriculture workers, along with the country’s healthcare workers and first responders. “Food and agriculture workers are heroes. They have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, ensuring Americans have access to safe, nutritious and affordable food, and they should be at the front of the line for a COVID-19 vaccine as well….This prioritization will ensure that our employees remain as healthy and safe as possible so that Americans continue to have food,” Smithfield wrote. Additionally, the company is calling for the establishment of an Inter-Agency Commission for the Continuity of America’s Food Supply, comprised of representatives from various government agencies, the White House, state government and industry participants, in addition to a bipartisan congressional coalition to examine potential threats to our nation’s food supply. A copy of the letter is available here

NPPC is proud to represent the interests of 60,000 U.S. hog farmers every day, but October is extra special because it’s National Pork Month. To celebrate and honor U.S. pork producers, NPPC is turning over its Hogs on the Hill blog to guest authors this month. In NPPC’s first guest submission, Illinois Pork Producers Association Executive Director Jennifer Tirey discusses the COVID crisis and how producers are responding, what help Congress can provide and how the association is celebrating National Pork Month. Read the full blog post here.


A number of NPPC staff will be speaking at the Pork Alliance’s virtual fall meeting on Oct. 13-14, including CEO Neil Dierks, Vice President and Counsel, Global Government Affairs Nick Giordano, Vice President of Industry Relations Dallas Hockman and Chief Veterinarian Dr. Liz Wagstrom. Additionally, on Oct. 14, Wagstrom will be providing oral comments to the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring public meeting, discussing the importance of partnerships in building a robust surveillance system for antimicrobial resistance.