For the Week Ending September 11, 2020

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Four former USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) administrators are urging Congress to address a significant funding shortfall that, if left unaddressed, could leave the country vulnerable to foreign animal and plant diseases. This is particularly important as Germany reported this week its first case of African swine fever in a wild boar. America’s first line of defense against introduction of ASF and other foreign animal diseases and pests is inspection of passengers, passenger baggage and cargo at ports of entry by the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection’s (BCBP) Agriculture Quarantine Inspectors, wrote the four former administrators in an op ed published in Agri Pulse on Tuesday. The inspectors are funded by Agricultural Quarantine Inspection (AQI) program user fees, however due to the COVID-related economic downturn and travel restrictions, there has been an unprecedented and dangerous drop in the collection of these user fees. With travel and cargo arrivals not likely to recover next year, APHIS estimates that it will require $630 million to fund these agricultural inspections through the fiscal year ending in September 2021. “It is unthinkable that we would forgo these port of entry inspections and impose a significant risk to U.S. agriculture and public health. We urge Congress to take immediate action to appropriate the $630 million needed to fund these inspectors through September 2021,” the former administrators wrote. “Sufficient funding would ensure our agriculture inspectors continue to prevent harmful animal and plant diseases from entering the country, and our $1 trillion agriculture sector remains a vibrant, economic powerhouse throughout the nation and world,” they added. NPPC has been leading efforts to ensure there is sufficient funding for BCBP agricultural inspectors. Read the full op-ed here

On Thursday, Senate Democrats blocked a “skinny,” $500 billion COVID relief package introduced by Republicans, significantly reducing chances of a compromise before the November election. Senators voted 52-47 on the bill—which included $20 billion in additional aid for agriculture and another round of Paycheck Protection Program funding, among other provisions—but failing to get the 60 votes necessary to advance. The bill was viewed as a messaging tool, allowing Senate Republicans to show near-unanimous support for efforts to help the U.S. economy through this crisis, even though the package would not be taken up by the Democrat-controlled House. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized the bill as being “emaciated” and “filled with poison pills.” Despite this week’s setback, NPPC is hopeful Congress can rekindle talks on another COVID relief package that includes these NPPC 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 UK and Japan announced they have struck a trade deal, the U.K.-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. This represents the first major trade deal for the UK since leaving the European Union, and will increase trade with Japan by an estimated 15.2 billion pounds. UK businesses will benefit from tariff-free trade on 99 percent of exports to Japan. As the UK explained, there will be “strong tariff reductions for UK pork and beef exports.” The U.S. is currently in its fourth round of trade talks with the UK. In October 2018, the Trump administration first announced its intention to negotiate a trade agreement with the U.K. NPPC is supportive of negotiations, provided the agreement eliminates tariff and non-tariff trade barriers on pork, and that the U.K. acknowledges meat industry standards as equivalent.

On Wednesday, the UK announced it has taken what it describes as a major step in the process of joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, alongside the current chair of the CPTPP Commission, Mexican Economy Minister Graciela Márquez, opened discussions between senior UK trade officials and chief negotiators from all 11 members of the partnership to discuss the possibility of the UK joining, the government explained. This marked the first time the UK met with chief negotiators from the 11 members, and the first time any country has sought membership since the partnership was created in 2018. “If the UK decides to apply, it will enter into a formal accession negotiation with all member states,” it explained. The free trade area removes tariffs on 95 percent of goods traded between its members. The 11 countries that compromise CPTPP are: Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Those same countries, along with the United States, previously comprised the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). After President Trump withdrew from TPP in 2017, the remaining countries negotiated a new trade agreement, CPTPP.  

On Tuesday, former Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis was named the European Union’s new trade commissioner, replacing Phil Hogan who resigned last month. As EU’s main trade point person, Dombrovskis will work with his U.S. counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, as the U.S. and EU work towards a free trade agreement. On Oct. 16, 2018, the Trump administration announced its intent to negotiate free trade agreements with several new markets, including the EU. The EU maintains high levels of tariff protection, as well as scientifically unjustifiable sanitary-phytosanitary and technical barriers to trade that make shipment of U.S. pork to the EU difficult, if not impossible. NPPC is urging the EU eliminate all tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. pork and recognize the equivalence of U.S. pork production practices, as well as accept exports from all USDA-approved facilities.  


NPPC is hosting its fall Legislative Action Conference next week. The virtual fly-in draws pork producers from around the country to meet with Congress and discuss various issues, including support for a COVID-relief package that includes much-needed assistance to hog farmers in crisis and efforts to ensure Congress fully funds foreign animal disease prevention programs. Among speakers will be House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.), and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Burke Healey.