For the Week Ending August 27, 2021

August 27, 2021

USDA TAKES MORE ACTION TO STOP SPREAD OF ASF FROM DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
USDA Thursday announced it will designate Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as a “protection zone,” a World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) designation that allows the United States to maintain its current animal health status should there be an outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) or other foreign animal disease on either island territory. USDA will work to gain OIE acceptance of this designation to maintain U.S. pork export continuity should Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands test positive for ASF. The United States, including both territories, remains free of ASF, a swine-only disease with no human health implications. There is no commercial pork trade from Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands to the United States mainland. The pre-emptive action, which NPPC encouraged USDA to take, comes less than a month after the Agriculture Department confirmed ASF in the Dominican Republic (DR), which is less than 250 miles from Puerto Rico. NPPC is working with USDA, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other industry organizations to contain to the Dominican Republic the first outbreak of ASF in the Western Hemisphere in approximately 40 years. See NPPC’s press release for more.

WHITE HOUSE REPORTS ENHANCED VIETNAM MARKET ACCESS FOR U.S. PORK
The White House this week announced it has secured significantly enhanced U.S. pork market access to Vietnam, a major pork-consuming nation struggling with African swine fever (ASF). The southeast Asian country agreed to cut its import duties on American pork products, as well as on corn and wheat. Improving market access to Vietnam has been one of NPPC’s top trade priorities. The organization has been aggressively lobbying on the issue for more than two years and led recent efforts that included 70 members of Congress sending a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, urging her to press Vietnam to eliminate tariffs on U.S. pork. NPPC is awaiting details on the agreement from U.S. government officials.

PROPOSED PROP. 12 RULES PROBLEMATIC FOR U.S. PORK PRODUCERS, SAYS NPPC
Michael Formica, NPPC’s assistant vice president and general counsel, today presented to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) oral comments on problems with proposed regulations implementing the state’s purported animal welfare measure, Proposition 12. Approved by California voters in November 2018, Prop. 12 will ban the sale in the state of pork from hogs born to sows housed in pens raised anywhere in the country that do not meet California’s prescribed sow housing standards. It also will prohibit the use of breeding stalls, which let sows recover after delivering and nursing piglets. The CDFA only recently issued proposed rules for implementing Prop. 12 despite a Sept. 1, 2019, statutory deadline for doing so. Among other issues, Formica pointed out that the proposed regulations would require unworkable annual certification of hog farms’ compliance with Prop. 12’s requirements, create a complex accreditation process for entities allowed to conduct such certifications, impose burdensome and unnecessary recordkeeping requirements on farmers, meat packers and others throughout the pork supply chain and impose unnecessary and problematic labeling requirements for pork. Formica reiterated NPPC’s request – made in written comments submitted in July – that the Jan. 1, 2022, effective date for Prop. 12 be delayed at least two years from the date regulations are finally promulgated.

CORRECTING A CRITIC FROM THE NORTH
A critic across our northern border continues to circulate inaccurate information about NPPC efforts to bring financial relief to US pork producers. Hogs on the Hill (HOTH) thought it time to set the record straight. U.S. hog farmers are an independent bunch, preferring to compete through hard work and innovation, allowing the free market to determine winners and losers. Unfortunately, unprecedented economic harm – brought on by a sustained period of trade retaliation against U.S. pork and the impact of COVID – threatened to put many producers out of business. Over the last five years, the National Pork Producers Council aggressively advocated on these issues to federal government officials and delivered relief that helped the U.S. pork industry weather these storms. Get the facts from HOTH.

GUIDANCE ON ENFORCEMENT OF PACKERS AND STOCKYARD ACT ISSUED
USDA this week issued guidance on how it will regulate the buying and selling of livestock through a Trump administration rule promulgated in December 2020, while it updates that regulation. The agency’s Agricultural Marketing Service posted to its webpage Frequently Asked Questions on “undue and unreasonable preferences and advantages” under the Packers and Stockyard Act (PSA). In June, USDA announced steps it will take to enforce the PSA, including proposing a new rule to strengthen enforcement against unfair and deceptive practices, undue preferences and unjust prejudices and reproposing a rule to clarify that parties do not need to demonstrate harm to competition to bring an action under the PSA. NPPC is concerned about that provision. In the Obama administration, USDA wrote a similar rule even though during debate on the 2008 Farm Bill – which directed changes to the PSA – Congress considered and rejected such a provision. Additionally, eight of the U.S. Court of Appeals’ 13 circuits have held that harm to competition must be an element of a PSA case.

AGRICULTURE GROUPS ASK FOR MORE TIME TO COMMENT ON NEW ‘WOTUS’ DEFINITION
NPPC and more than two dozen other agricultural organizations this week asked EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers for an extension of the period for commenting on how to define “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act. The Biden administration announced in July that it was ditching the Navigable Waters Protection Rule promulgated in June 2020 by the Trump administration to replace the Obama-era WOTUS Rule. That 2015 regulation gave EPA broad jurisdiction over U.S. waters to include, among other water bodies, upstream waters and intermittent and ephemeral streams such as the kind farmers use for drainage and irrigation. It also covered lands adjacent to such waters. Prior to that rule, EPA’s jurisdiction over waterways – based on several U.S. Supreme Court decisions – included “navigable” waters and waters with a significant hydrologic connection to navigable waters. The Biden administration said it would revert to the pre-2015 regulation and update it consistent with relevant Supreme Court decisions and recommendations from affected stakeholders, who were given until Sept. 3 to submit comments. NPPC, the American Farm Bureau Federation – both of which led the agricultural industry’s legal and regulatory fight against the 2015 WOTUS Rule – and 25 other agricultural groups in an Aug. 23 letter asked EPA and the Corps of Engineers for an additional 60 days to submit “their perspectives on defining WOTUS and how to implement the definition as the agencies pursue future rulemaking proceedings.”

FUNDS TO BE USED FOR SURVEILLANCE OF COVID, OTHER ANIMAL DISEASES
USDA this week directed $300 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to surveillance for COVID and other emerging and zoonotic diseases and to establish an “early warning system” to alert public health officials to potential threats from animal diseases. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) also will increase diagnostic testing capability and capacity and conduct investigations of new animal disease detections and exposures. NPPC, which pointed out that as APHIS builds laboratory capacity for COVID testing, it’s building it for other diseases, had urged that the COVID rescue plan include additional funding for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN). The USDA action will provide funds to the NAHLN labs.

NEW AMBASSADORS TO CHINA, JAPAN NOMINATED
President Biden late last Friday nominated former NATO ambassador Nicholas Burns and former Chicago mayor and Obama White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel as ambassadors to, respectively, China and Japan. The countries were the top two export markets for U.S. pork in 2020, with the U.S. pork industry shipping $2.3 billion of pork to China and $1.6 billion to Japan. The U.S. Senate must confirm Burns and Emanuel to their posts.

DELEGATES MEET ON SWINE HEALTH IMPROVEMENT PLAN INITIATIVE
Delegates to the U.S. Swine Health Improvement Plan (USSHIP) initiative, a pilot project to develop and implement an African swine fever (ASF)-Classical swine fever (CSF) monitored certification program, met this week to discuss developing program standards. They approved resolutions related to animal traceability, risks of disease transmission through feed, biosecurity and sanitizing standards for pork industry infrastructure, such as trucks, trailers and facilities. Several NPPC board and committee members served as delegates for their state pork producer organizations, and NPPC CEO Neil Dierks and Cody McKinley, NPPC’s assistant vice president for state and national relations, attended as observers. USSHIP, which is funded by USDA’s Veterinary Services, is directed by swine veterinarians from Iowa State University, South Dakota State University, the University of Illinois and the University of Minnesota. Its goal is to safeguard, certify and improve the health of the U.S. swine herd and enhance the longer-term competitiveness and sustainability of the U.S. pork industry.

USDA HOLDING ASF EDUCATION WEBINARS IN SEPTEMBER
USDA’s Animal and Health Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) is hosting African Swine Fever (ASF) Action Week Sept. 13-17 to highlight prevention and preparedness efforts. The agency will hold webinars each day for stakeholders to learn more about ASF’s global spread, APHIS’s actions to safeguard the country and biosecurity measures pork producers can take to protect the U.S. swine herd. To register or learn more about the webinars, click here. For additional information on ASF biosecurity, visit here.