For the Week Ending August 6, 2021

August 6, 2021

NATIONAL MEDIA HIGHLIGHTS PORK SUPPLY CONCERNS WITH PROPOSITION 12 IMPLEMENTATION
This week, NPPC’s advocacy efforts to educate policy makers and the general public about the damaging implications of California’s Proposition 12 reached a new peak, as numerous national news outlets reported on the serious supply concerns—including bacon shortages—that could occur if the rule is implemented next year. Set to begin implementation on Jan. 1, 2022, Proposition 12 imposes arbitrary animal housing standards that reach far outside of California’s borders to farms across the country, and bans the sale of pork that does not meet those arbitrary standards. To comply, hog farmers will be forced to incur the costs of extensive renovations, while Proposition 12 dramatically reduces the supply of pork for Californians. “The ability for us to be this flexible and nimble in changing the supply chain just simply isn’t possible,” Iowa hog farmer Dwight Mogler explained to CNBC. “The reality of the matter is that consumers simply will not have product available to them with this law in place because there simply isn’t going to be enough production made that will comply by 2022.” In many of the news stories, California consumers didn’t seem to be aware of Proposition 12 or its implications beginning next year. As one California consumer told CBS News, “It would be nice to know what we were voting for. I don’t think anybody knows about this.” NPPC, in conjunction with the American Farm Bureau Federation, has been pursuing legal litigation against Proposition 12 and has urged the state to delay implementation by at least two years. 

NPPC APPLAUDS USDA’S ADDED SAFETY MEASURES ON IMPORTED DOGS FROM ASF-POSITIVE COUNTRIES
Today, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced a federal order establishing additional requirements for dogs imported into the United States for resale from African swine fever (ASF)-positive countries. Ensuring ASF and other foreign animal diseases don’t enter the country is one of the National Pork Producers Council’s (NPPC) top priorities. Earlier this year, NPPC sounded the alarm on the potential for imported rescue dogs to serve as disease carriers from their bedding, crates or coats, becoming a lead issue during our spring Legislative Action Conference (LAC). “Each year, several thousand dogs enter the country for resale or adoption. If even one of these animals carried ASF into the country, it could put the U.S. swine herd and other livestock in jeopardy and have disastrous consequences for our nation’s agriculture sector,” said NPPC Chief Veterinarian Dr. Liz Wagstrom. “We thank USDA for implementing these additional safety measures to prevent the spread of ASF to the United States,” she added. Learn more here

STUDY: U.S. PORK NEEDS MORE ACCESS TO FOREIGN-BORN WORKFORCE
Despite competitive wages and an expanding workforce, the U.S. pork industry continues to struggle with a labor shortage that will require access to more foreign-born workers to remain sustainable, according to a study by Iowa State University economists that was recently updated to reflect the current state of the labor market. NPPC shared the study this week, underscoring the urgent need for agriculture labor reform, a top priority for pork producers. According to the study, from 2001-2020, employment in the U.S. pork industry grew by an annual rate of 1.5 percent, four times faster than employment growth in all U.S. industries. Despite expanded wages and jobs, the U.S. pork industry is facing a significant domestic labor shortage due to a dwindling and aging rural labor population where hog farms and harvest facilities are located, the study noted. Current visa programs designed for seasonal agriculture—such as the H-2A visa—fail to meet the workforce needs of U.S. pork producers and other year-round livestock farmers. To address the labor shortage, NPPC is advocating for year-round access to the H-2A visa program without a cap. “The U.S. pork industry has a critical labor shortage that needs to be urgently addressed,” said NPPC President Jen Sorenson, who recently testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the need for labor reform. “Pork production is year-round, and visa reform should reflect that reality.” Learn more here

SENATORS INTRODUCE BILL TO PREVENT PROP 12-STYLE MEASURES ACROSS THE COUNTRY
This week, Sens. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Cindy Hyde Smith (R-Miss.) introduced the Exposing Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act, which would prohibit state and local government from interfering with the production or manufacture of agricultural products in other states. The bill specifically aims to prevent states from passing similar measures as California’s Proposition 12, which imposes arbitrary animal housing standards that reach far outside of California’s borders to farms across the country. “I don’t know why anyone would want to live in a state where it’s almost impossible to buy bacon. But California wants to impose such a rule on its residents. Iowa has an abundance of agricultural products to offer and folks from coast to coast should be able to enjoy them,” said Grassley. NPPC supports this timely and highly important legislation. Preventing other states from imposing similarly harmful rules will benefit both agriculture producers and consumers throughout the country. 

BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE PACKAGE NEARS SENATE PASSAGE AS MEMBERS PREP FOR WEEKEND VOTE
The Senate was unable to close debate on the bipartisan infrastructure package on Thursday evening, setting up a weekend cloture vote on whether to advance the measure. The vote, scheduled for 12pmET on Saturday, will require 60 votes to end debate and subsequently vote on passage. Some disagreement remains on the scope of amendments after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the package will increase the federal deficit by $256 billion over the next decade. Currently, 18 Republican senators – including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) – have indicated support for the agreement. The final stages of negotiations come as Senate Democrats work to finalize a budget resolution before the August recess – starting the process to formulate a $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” package funded by tax reform. The Senate will be out of session on Friday, as some senators depart for Wyoming for the funeral of former Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.). 

NPPC URGES MASSACHUSETTS TO DELAY IMPLEMENTATION OF ANIMAL WELFARE RULE 
In comments submitted this week, NPPC is urging the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office to delay implementation of its animal welfare rule to provide ample opportunity for pork producers to make necessary changes. Massachusetts’ Question 3 is a 2016 ballot initiative which prohibits the sale of pork produced using certain production methods. In many ways, Question 3 is substantially similar to Proposition 12, a California ballot initiative which passed in 2018. The Massachusetts initiative is set to begin on Jan. 1, 2022, yet the commonwealth only recently issued proposed implementation rules—required by Jan. 1, 2020. “NPPC respectfully requests that the Attorney General’s Office suspend the implementation of Question 3 to ensure that farmers, and Massachusetts consumers of pork, are afforded the full two-year window between promulgation of final rules and regulations, and the effective date of the Act,” NPPC wrote. Therefore, NPPC urged the commonwealth to delay implementation by at least two years from when its regulations are finally promulgated. A copy of NPPC’s full comments is here

USTR NOT READY TO RESTART CHINA TRADE TALKS
On Friday, the Biden administration said it was not ready to restart negotiations with China on trade concerns. The comments, from U.S. Trade Representative spokesperson Adam Hodge, were in response to a letter that business groups sent to the administration on Thursday, urging for the government to begin negotiations and cut tariffs on imports from China. Instead, Hodge said the administration is conducting a robust, strategic review of our economic relationship with China. U.S. pork faces a minimum 33 percent import tariff in China—a 25 percent retaliatory tariff, plus 8 percent Most Favored Nation (MFN) rate–while competitor nations only have the 8 percent MFN tariff—placing U.S. pork at a significant competitive disadvantage. NPPC continues to advocate for the removal of these punitive duties on U.S. pork in China. 

SENATE BILL INTRODUCED TO ENSURE IMPORTED DOGS DON’T HARM ANIMAL HEALTH
On Wednesday, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) introduced legislation that would ensure dogs imported into the United States are not at risk of spreading dangerous diseases that could harm pets and livestock. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one million dogs are annually imported into the country. For the estimated 113,000 dogs imported from countries that are at a high-risk for rabies transmission, CDC requires a rabies vaccination certificate, but no other health documentation or identification. For the 950,000 dogs imported from rabies-free, low-risk or moderate risk countries, CDC requires no documentation or vaccination. The Healthy Dog Importation Act (S. 2597) would require all imported dogs to have valid certification of necessary vaccinations, and those certifications to be submitted to USDA, which would maintain a centralized, publicly available database and made available to the secretaries of Health and Human Services, Commerce and Homeland Security, among other provisions. The bill is companion legislation to H.R. 4239, introduced earlier this year by Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.). See more in today’s related Capital Update story on USDA’s announcement.  

USDA SEEKING RESPONSES FOR FERAL SWINE LIVESTOCK DAMAGE SURVEY
USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) has recently sent a feral swine livestock damage survey to a sample of livestock operations in 13 states: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. This will help NASS and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service understand the impacts of feral swine on livestock operations, including hog farms. Producers are encouraged to respond online at agcounts.usda.gov or by mail. For more information about the research related to this survey, visit here.

SENATE APPROVES NOMINATION OF USDA GENERAL COUNSEL
By voice vote, the Senate has confirmed the nomination of Janie Simms Hipp to be USDA’s general counsel. Hipp, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, served in several posts at USDA during the Obama administration, including director of the Office of Tribal Relations. She most recently was the CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund. Earlier in the year, NPPC joined 18 food and agriculture trade associations in sending a letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee in support of Hipp’s nomination.