For the Week Ending April 22, 2022

April 22, 2022

USDA LETS MORE PACKING PLANTS RETURN TO FASTER LINE SPEEDS

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced it approved the Clemens Food Group pork packing plant in Coldwater, Michigan, to run faster line speeds under a one-year trial program. The agency now has let four plants operate with faster harvesting line speeds, which could increase packing capacity and alleviate supply issues in the face of strong pork demand. FSIS established the line speeds program last November, after a provision in USDA’s 2019 New Swine Inspection System (NSIS) was struck down by a U.S. District Court in March 2021. Nine pork packing plants that had adopted the NSIS — six of which were operating with faster line speeds — were allowed to apply for the program, under which they need to collect data on the effects of the faster speeds on workers and share it with USDA and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The information could be used to formulate a new regulation for allowing plants to run faster line speeds. NPPC pulled out the proverbial stops last year to get the plants back to operating faster line speeds and was greatly relieved when USDA announced the one-year program. According to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, if six plants are in the program, the aggregate impact on U.S. pork harvest capacity will be a 3.6% expansion. After one year, that would translate into an increase in live hog prices of 6%.

COALITION URGES RECONCILIATION OF COMPETING OCEAN SHIPPING REFORM BILLS
A coalition representing exporters and importers that includes NPPC this week asked the leaders of the Senate and House transportation committees to quickly resolve differences in their “Ocean Shipping Reform Act” (OSRA) bills, both of which address longstanding supply chain issues and shipping port disruptions. The Senate approved its version of the OSRA in late March; the House passed its bill in December. In a letter signed by 91 companies and trade associations sent Thursday to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Chairman Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS) and House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO), the coalition urged the lawmakers to discuss and reconcile their respective measures in a conference committee. U.S. exporters and importers have been dealing with port problems, including aging infrastructure, and shipping issues, such as excessive detention and demurrage charges, for several years. Those challenges have been exacerbated over the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Promptly reaching a final OSRA bill, followed by swift final Congressional passage and the president’s signature, will help ensure U.S. competitiveness and continued economic recovery,” the coalition concluded. (Click here to read the letter.)

COVID VACCINE REQUIREMENT FOR FOREIGN FARMWORKERS EXTENDED
The Biden administration this week extended the requirement that “non-U.S. travelers,” including temporary foreign-born farmworkers, show a written record from a government health agency of COVID-19 vaccination to enter the United States. The vaccine must be approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). U.S. agricultural groups, including NPPC, have raised concerns about restrictions on H-2A and TN visa holders who received vaccines not approved by the WHO or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Russian-manufactured Sputnik vaccine, for example, commonly is used in Mexico but is not WHO- or CDC-approved. That has led to some disruptions in recruiting H-2A and TN visa workers. In February, a bipartisan group of House members asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to be flexible in requiring H-2A farmworkers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, including allowing those who are not able to get a vaccine in their home country or had a non-CDC-approved vaccine to enter the United States under the condition that they get vaccinated once they arrive.

FDA EXTENDS PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD ON SAFETY OF CARBADOX
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has provided an additional 60 days for the public to comment on the safety of carbadox. The animal health product has been used for decades in hog feed to control bacterial diseases such as Salmonella and swine dysentery. FDA is seeking input on the benefits of carbadox, as well as scientific data and information on its safety and possible carcinogenic residues of it in swine tissue. NPPC participated in a public hearing on carbadox in March, urging the agency to develop a new residue test for the product rather than pull it from the market. NPPC pointed out that enteric diseases such as swine dysentery and Salmonella are difficult to control with vaccination or antibiotics other than carbadox and that alternatives on the market are medically important antibiotics for humans. The use of such antibiotics in food animals would be in conflict with FDA guidance and objectives, including fostering stewardship of antimicrobials in veterinary settings. (To submit comments by the June 10 deadline, click here.)

FDA REPORT SHOWS LITTLE CHANGE IN ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration this week released its latest report on trends in antimicrobial resistance in certain bacteria collected from people, animals and retail meat. The 2019 National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) report showed that 78% of human isolates of Salmonella, one of the two leading bacterial causes of foodborne illness in the United States, were not resistant to antibiotics, a trend that has remained consistent for the past 15 years. Although changes to how pork samples are collected make it difficult to determine trends, the report showed no overall increase in resistance in swine-associated samples, according to NPPC, which has been supportive of NARMS as a source of science-based data on antimicrobial resistance. (Click here to read about the NARMS report.)

WHAT’S AHEAD

WORLD PORK EXPO JUNE 8-10
NPPC’s annual World Pork Expo will be held June 8-10 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, IA. For more information about and to register for the world’s largest pork industry trade show and exhibition, click here.