For the Week Ending December 18, 2020

December 18, 2020

NPPC APPLAUDS REGAN NOMINATION TO HEAD EPA
On Thursday evening, President-Elect Biden nominated Michael Regan as the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Regan most recently led the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). “As DEQ secretary in North Carolina, a leading pork-producing state, he always had an open door, valued diverse points of view, and worked to find solutions that ensured science and data were guiding decisions. We hope those same qualities will be carried over to his leadership at EPA,” said NPPC President Howard “AV” Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin. Read NPPC’s full statement here.

CONGRESS EYEING PASSAGE OF SHORT-TERM FUNDING EXTENSION WHILE FINALIZING COVID RELIEF PACKAGE
At presstime, Congress was working towards a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government past Friday at midnight. The continuing resolution filed would fund the government through Dec. 20, giving lawmakers two days to work out differences and vote on a combined $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill and a $900 billion COVID relief package. However, Republicans and Democrats were still sparring over differences in the draft COVID package. While legislative text still has not been released, it will likely include $13 billion in aid to agriculture, as well as more than $250 billion for another round of Paycheck Protection Program loans, a new round of stimulus checks and increased unemployment benefits. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that a “bipartisan, bicameral agreement appears to be close at hand,” but noted it was “highly likely” Congress would work through the weekend to finalize language. 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. 

USDA RECEIVES DELIVERY OF FIRST SIGNIFICANT FMD VACCINE BANK PURCHASE
Earlier this year, USDA announced the first significant purchase for its Foot-and-Mouth (FMD) vaccine bank. Last week, the purchase worth $27 million was delivered to the bank. The establishment of a robust FMD vaccine bank has been a top, long-term priority for NPPC, which was instrumental in advocating for its establishment as part of the 2018 Farm Bill. Currently, the USDA, which has prescribed vaccination for dealing with an FMD outbreak, does not have access to enough vaccine should an outbreak occur. FMD is an infectious viral disease that affects cloven-hooved animals, including cattle, pigs and sheep; it is not a food safety or human health threat. The disease is endemic in many parts of the world and would have widespread, long-term fallout for livestock and crop agriculture, including the immediate loss of export markets. NPPC looks forward to continuing to work with the agency to ensure the FMD vaccine bank is adequately stocked.  

FDA APPROVES FIRST GENETICALLY MODIFIED PIGS FOR FOOD AND MEDICAL USE
On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first genetically engineered domestic pigs, referred to as GalSafe hogs, for food or medical use. The pigs have been engineered to eliminate alpha-gal, a sugar found in red meat that can cause allergic reactions for people with Alpha-gal syndrome. The process is not based on gene editing, but rather on older transgenic technology similar to the AquaBounty Salmon process. “Though these animals were not produced through gene editing, it still highlights the importance of ensuring proper regulation,” NPPC Director of Science and Technology Dr. Dan Kovich told Farm Journal’s PORK this week. “NPPC remains firm that, in order for the tremendous potential of gene editing to be safely and readily available to U.S. farmers, regulatory authority for all agricultural applications of these new technologies has to be consolidated at the USDA,” he added. For more than two years, by claiming regulatory jurisdiction over gene-edited livestock, the FDA has stalled the development of this emerging technology. If oversight isn’t moved to the USDA, we will have ceded this promising technology to global competitors at the expense of American jobs and our nation’s global agricultural leadership position.