For the Week Ending September 25, 2020

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A top NPPC priority is ensuring African swine fever (ASF) and other foreign animal diseases stay out of the United States. On Monday, NPPC Chief Veterinarian Liz Wagstrom spoke on a biosecurity panel at Agri Pulse’s Ag & Food Policy Summit, highlighting the importance of remaining vigilant to keep U.S. swine healthy. Unfortunately, there is a dangerous funding shortfall to pay for U.S. agriculture inspectors, the first line of defense to protect against entrance of these diseases. U.S. agricultural 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, USDA estimates that it will require $630 million to fund these agricultural inspections through the fiscal year ending in September 2021. NPPC has been leading efforts to address the dangerous AQI funding shortfall, including it as one of the top five critical asks during last week’s virtual Legislative Action Conference and sending a letter last week signed by more than 200 agriculture, trade and related groups to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, urging them to address the funding shortfall.

On Tuesday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a continuing resolution to fund the government through Dec. 11. Several agriculture provisions were included in the short-term funding bill, including $30 billion to replenish the Commodity Credit Corporation and allow USDA to use the program to make payments to farmers without interruption, and extension of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act (LMRA), which offers market information and critical transparency on pricing, contracting for purchase and supply-and-demand conditions for hogs. Timely reauthorization of LMRA, which was to expire on Sept. 30, was one of NPPC’s five critical issues during last week’s Legislative Action Conference. The continuing resolution now heads to the Senate, where it’s anticipated to easily pass next week, ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline. It would then head to President Trump’s desk for signature.   

On Wednesday, NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation jointly filed their opening brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, asking the court to strike California’s Proposition 12 as invalid. Proposition 12 imposes arbitrary animal housing standards that reach outside of California’s borders to farms across the United States. By attempting to regulate businesses outside of its borders, California’s Proposition 12 violates the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, Proposition 12 prohibits the sale of pork not produced according to California’s highly prescriptive production standards. The proposition applies to any uncooked pork sold in the state, whether raised there or outside its borders. Proposition 12 “imposes an enormous and costly burden on interstate commercial transactions, requiring wholesale rebuilding of tens of thousands of sow farm facilities and massive operational changes in how farmers care for their sows,” explained the filing. Additionally, “it achieves no consumer-health benefit at all—though that was touted to voters as one of its goals—and far exceeds any right of California to determine what its own citizens eat by regulating as a practical matter how pork is produced nationwide.” Currently, less than one percent of U.S. pork production meets Proposition 12’s requirements. To comply with Proposition 12, U.S. hog farmers need to start making investment decisions today to be ready by the implementation date. To read the full opening brief, click here

The U.S. and the U.K. wrapped up its fourth round of talks last week, with negotiators working on 16 different chapters of the proposed deal covering food safety rules, market access and financial services, among topics during the Sept. 8-18 meetings. “Significant progress has been achieved since launching negotiations in May 2020, and most chapter areas are now in the advanced stages of talks,” said the UK Department of International Trade. The fifth round of talks will take place mid-October, the agency said. 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, the U.K. acknowledges meat industry standards as equivalent and they agree to import product from all federally inspected facilities. Ambassador Lighthizer continues to warn that the two nations are unlikely to reach a deal before the November elections. 

Late last week, USDA’s Office of Food Safety and the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) released a plan to decrease salmonella, one of the leading causes of foodborne illness. The “Roadmap to Reducing Salmonella: Driving Change through Science-Based Policy” outlined programs and policies that are science-based, data-driven, and promote innovation to reduce salmonella in meat, poultry, and egg products. In oral comments Tuesday at a virtual public meeting on the plan, NPPC Director of Science and Technology Dr. Dan Kovich testified it’s critical the roadmap isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. “There exists tremendous diversity of salmonella serotypes, and not all are equal when it comes to public health consequence. Their ecology, prevalence and virulence all vary and accounting for this must be a priority for all FSIS activities in this area,” he said. Additionally, there are “significant differences among the livestock and poultry species in factors such as their exposure, physiological response, and food safety risks,” he noted. “We appreciate the FSIS roadmap for reducing salmonella’s commitment to relying on the latest and best science to drive food safety and public health decision making,” he added. America’s pork producers have long prioritized food safety and take great pride in providing safe and wholesome food to consumers. USDA is accepting public comments on the plan through Oct. 16.  

NPPC officials regularly speak at conferences, government meetings and media events to discuss top issues affecting U.S. pork producers. Among events this week which included NPPC officials:

  • NPPC Chief Veterinarian Dr. Liz Wagstrom spoke at Agri Pulse’s Ag & Food Policy Summit, discussing the importance of preventing African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases from entering the United States.
  • NPPC Manager of Congressional Relations Andrew Fisher spoke at Agri Pulse’s Ag & Food Policy Summit, highlighting NPPC’s recent fall Legislative Action Conference.
  • NPPC Assistant Vice President, Domestic Affairs & Counsel Michael Formica spoke at the annual National CAFO Summit held by the Association of Clean Water Administrators, discussing the impacts of COVID-19 on pork producers, as well as a separate panel of animal agriculture representatives on water quality challenges that face livestock producers.
  • NPPC Director of Science and Technology Dr. Dan Kovich testified at a USDA hearing on salmonella.
  • NPPC Science and Technology Legal Counsel Andrew Bailey appeared on “Adams on Agriculture,” discussing the importance of fully funding U.S. agriculture inspectors at our borders and ports.