For the Week Ending December 11, 2020

December 11, 2020

NPPC SUPPORTS VILSACK NOMINATION TO HEAD USDA, TAI AS U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE
On Thursday, President-Elect Biden announced Tom Vilsack’s nomination as the next USDA secretary. “As both the former governor of Iowa, the top pork-producing state in the country, and the former USDA secretary, he understands how critical a vibrant American farm sector is to the rural and overall U.S. economy, and the importance of keeping consumers supplied with an affordable source of nutritious protein,” said NPPC President Howard “AV” Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin. Vilsack previously headed the agency for eight years under the Obama administration. Additionally, Biden announced Katherine Tai to be the U.S. Trade Representative. Since 2017, she has been the chief trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee and previously served in the Office of the United States Trade Representative as chief counsel for China Trade Enforcement. “Her deep trade experience in Congress and the executive branch will serve her well as our next U.S. Trade Representative,” said Roth. Read NPPC’s releases on Vilsack and Tai here and here

AGRICULTURE WORKERS SHOULD HAVE EARLY ACCESS TO COVID VACCINES
In a letter this week to all 50 governors, NPPC, the North American Meat Institute and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association jointly urged for prioritizing COVID-19 vaccinations for meat and poultry industry workers, directly after healthcare workers and other high-risk individuals. “As essential workers committed to keeping America food secure, agricultural workers should be at the front of that second tier of essential workers to receive the vaccine. There is nothing more essential than keeping food on shelves,” NPPC Science and Technology Legal Counsel Andrew Bailey told RFD-TV this week. Last week, NPPC submitted a similar statement to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

NPPC’S NICK GIORDANO NAMED A TOP LOBBYIST BY THE HILL
On Thursday, Nick Giordano, NPPC vice president and counsel, global government affairs was named a top 2020 lobbyist by The Hill. The outlet releases a much-anticipated list every year, highlighting those “who wielded their cloud and knowledge most effectively for their clients.” Last month, Giordano was among 21 association lobbyists honored by the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics. The organization highlighted efforts by Giordano and NPPC to help U.S. pork producers weather the COVID pandemic.  

COVID RELIEF TALKS ONGOING
Last week’s cautious optimism about a possible agreement on a new COVID relief package deflated this week, as continued differences dimmed chances for passage before the end of the year. Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) want to pair a new COVID bill with the omnibus fiscal year 2021 spending bill, but that is complicating efforts.On Wednesday, the House passed a brief stopgap bill to fund the government one additional week, to Dec. 18, while negotiations continued on the larger spending bill. After much wrangling, the Senate followed suit on Friday afternoon. The measure still needs to be signed by midnight tonight to avoid a government shutdown. Meantime, the bipartisan group of senators who last week introduced a $908 billion COVID relief package still have not provided legislative text for their proposal, which includes $13 billion in aid to agriculture. However, McConnell’s staff have already indicated that the group’s attempt to link $160 billion in state and local aid and a temporary liability shield won’t likely get Republican support. It remains to be seen whether agreement can be reached. Previously, Pelosi advocated for a broader, $2 trillion COVID relief measure, while McConnell pushed for a more targeted, $500 billion bill. U.S. hog farmers are facing billions in collective pandemic-related losses and NPPC continues to press for a COVID-relief package that includes assistance for U.S. pork producers. 

NPPC JOINS FOOD AND AGRICULTURE CLIMATE ALLIANCE
NPPC recently joined the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA), a coalition formed earlier this year representing farmers, forest owners, the food sector, state governments and environmental advocates to present policy recommendations to help guide the development of federal climate legislation. NPPC joins other FACA members including the American Farm Bureau Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, and National Farmers Union. NPPC is also a member of Farmers for a Sustainable Future, launched earlier this year and representing U.S. farmers and ranchers who are committed to producing the world’s food, feed and fiber supply in a sustainable way. U.S. pork producers remain committed to reducing their environmental footprint and ensuring our natural resources remain protected. NPPC looks forward to being part of ongoing conversations to address climate change.  

NPPC JOINS LETTER URGING USTR TO DROP SECTION 201 REQUEST
This week, NPPC joined 31 agriculture associations and companies in “expressing strong concerns” with the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) recent request to the International Trade Commission (ITC) to initiate a Section 201 investigation. In October, USTR requested a global safeguard investigation into the extent to which increased imports of blueberries had caused serious injury or threat to domestic blueberry growers. The top U.S. blueberry imports are from Canada, Chile, Mexico and Peru. Under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) agreement, both Canada and Mexico have the ability to immediate impose retaliatory duties equal to the amount imposed by the United States. “Section 201 safeguard actions taken without a legitimate cause against Mexico and Canada would not only undermine USMCA, but also invite retaliatory tariffs against U.S. agriculture and food exports to these critical markets,” the groups wrote to USTR Robert Lighthizer. “Additionally, this could set a precedent for Canada or Mexico to establish their own tariff policies….As our industry continues to recover from COVID-19-related market shocks and supply chain disruptions, the last thing we can afford at this point is additional uncertainty and higher tariffs.” Global safeguard cases are independently investigated by the ITC and can take months to complete. It is unlikely that the ITC will make a decision by the end of the year. Once complete, the ITC will make a recommendation to the president, who can make a final determination on whether duties will be imposed on products and the amount in total damages. A copy of the letter is available here

AG GROUPS URGE BIDEN TO SUPPORT NUTRIENT LOSS REDUCTION FRAMEWORK PROGRAM
NPPC, the Indiana Pork Producers and 11 other agriculture groups wrote to President-Elect Biden’s environment and agriculture transition teams on Wednesday, urging the incoming administration to support a program aimed at implementing strategies to reduce nutrient losses to protect water quality. The “Nutrient Loss Reduction Framework” was issued in 2011 and reaffirmed in 2016. The framework’s policies, jointly promoted by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) by the Gulf of Mexico Program, “has led to a rapid and meaningful expansion of substantive work to reduce nutrient losses in several Mississippi River Basin states,” the letter explained. “We strongly encourage U.S. EPA and USDA to embrace and reaffirm the core tenets of the 2011 Nutrient Loss Reduction Framework, and then devise and implement a program of assistance to the states to take the implementation of their strategies to the next level….We encourage the adoption of this approach in any state where nutrient losses are a concern for water quality,” the letter added. NPPC and the other organizations committed in the letter to working with the new administration, should the 2011 policies be reaffirmed. A copy of the letter is here