For the Week Ending February 11, 2022

February 11, 2022

NPPC COMMENTS ON POSSIBLE RODENTICIDE RESTRICTIONS
NPPC and nine other agricultural groups late last Friday submitted answers and observations in response to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency request for information about the use of rodenticides to control rats and mice infestations on farms. EPA regulates which pesticide products can be used and how they are used under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). The agency is reported to be considering allowing only “certified pesticide applicators” to apply the products on farms, requiring protective respiratory equipment be used when applying rodenticides and mandating detailed records on rodenticide use be kept and maintained. NPPC and the groups said in their comments: “These products are absolutely critical to attaining multiple objectives important not only to our members’ operations but to society as a whole.” They pointed out that rodenticides help protect the health and well-being of animals, ensure the safety of the food those animals produce, prevent the propagation and spread of human pathogens carried and transmitted by rodents and reduce the loss of feed from rodent waste and consumption. Restrictions on the availability of rodenticides or that increase the costs of their acquisition, use and management could result in the loss of small- to mid-size farms and ranches and increase concentration in the agriculture industry, the organizations concluded. (Click here to read the comments.)

ORGANIZATIONS ASK EPA TO WITHDRAW PROPOSED NEW ‘WATERS OF THE U.S.’ RULE
NPPC this week signed onto two sets of comments asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to withdraw its proposed new “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) rule. Submitted by the Waters Action Coalition (WAC), of which NPPC is a member, and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), the comments detail problems with the proposed regulation, which would replace the Trump-era Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR). That regulation replaced the 2015 Obama administration WOTUS rule. The WAC said the Biden administration’s proposed WOTUS rule “is essentially a renewed quest to claim jurisdiction eventually over all tributaries, all floodplain riparian area wetlands and open waters, and as many remaining wetlands and open waters in non-floodplain landscapes as possible.” In the comments, the groups also argue that the proposed rule should be withdrawn because the U.S. Supreme Court in January agreed to hear a WOTUS case that challenges the central mechanism EPA proposes to use to expand its jurisdiction. Prior to the 2015 regulation, EPA’s jurisdiction over waterways – based on several Supreme Court decisions – included “navigable” waters and waters with a significant hydrologic connection to navigable waters. The Obama-era rule, strongly opposed by NPPC, the WAC and other agricultural groups, was enjoined by several federal courts before it was repealed and replaced with the NWPR during the Trump administration. (Click here and here to read, respectively, the WAC and AFBF comments.)

U.S. PORK EXPORTS SET RECORD IN 2021
The U.S. pork industry last year set a record for pork exports, topping $8.1 billion and beating 2020’s then-record $7.7 billion, according to U.S. Commerce Department data released this week by Trade Data Monitor. As it was in 2020, China was the No. 1 value market for American pork in 2021 but just barely. Japan, the No. 2 value market, took in just $3.8 million less pork than China, which imported just under $1.7 billion of it. That amount, however, represents a more than 25% reduction from 2020. The drop was a result of China’s 25% retaliatory tariff on U.S. pork, a response to U.S. duties on a host of Chinese goods. While Japan last year had only a modest increase in U.S. pork imports over 2020, the rise can be attributed to the U.S.-Japan market access agreement, which took effect Jan. 1, 2020, and is phasing out tariffs on pork. (Many of the other Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership countries – Japan is one – had decreases in U.S. pork imports in 2021.) Rounding out the top five markets were, in order, Mexico, Canada and South Korea, whose U.S. pork imports increased by more than 45%, almost 12% and 23%, respectively. There also were significant increases in exports of U.S. pork to Colombia, which saw a 58% jump over 2020, the DR-CAFTA countries and the Philippines, which increased imports by 69% following last year’s cut in its tariff on pork and an increase in its import quota. In 2021, Mexico was the No. 1 volume market, a spot it has held for at least the past decade except in 2020, when China was first. The U.S. pork industry in 2021 exported more than 2.922 million metric tons of pork, which was about 53,000 less than 2020’s record 2.975 million metric tons.

USDA SEEKING PROPOSALS FOR AGRICULTURE CLIMATE-SMART PILOT PROJECTS
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack this week announced that USDA is seeking proposals for pilot projects that support farmers’ use of climate-smart practices and that create market opportunities for U.S. agricultural commodities produced using such practices. USDA will provide $1 billion for the selected projects through the Commodity Credit Corporation. Project proposals costing between $5 million and $100 million are due by April 8, 2022, and proposals ranging from $250,000 to $5 million in size are due by May 27, 2022. Those smaller-scale proposals will be limited to innovative projects, with an emphasis on small and underserved farmers and on projects developed at minority-serving institutions. The Secretary said USDA hopes a broad array of agriculture and forestry producers will participate in the effort, including early adopters of climate-smart practices, who are eligible for financial support. All proposals must provide sufficient incentives to encourage producer participation and generate verifiable greenhouse gas reductions and carbon sequestration benefits. Proposals also must detail how they will quantify and verify practices that are implemented and the climate results achieved, as well as how they will develop markets for climate-smart commodities. (Click here for guidance on requirements for submitting qualified pilot project proposals.)

MARITIME COMMISSION CONSIDERS REGULATION FOR ‘DETENTION,’ ‘DEMURRAGE’ FEES
The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is accepting public comments about a potential rule related to detention and demurrage fees charged by shipping ports, terminal operators and common carriers on exporters and importers. The agency wants to gather information on billing practices and on how to ensure a bill for detention and demurrage fees is issued to the correct party and whether an explanation of the source and reason for the charges should be required. The FMC is considering regulations mandating that certain minimum information be included on such bills. Demurrage and detention charges are levied on exporters and importers for use of marine terminal space and shipping containers. Among other information, the commission wants to know what is necessary to identify shipments and whether detention and demurrage bills should include how charges are calculated. The Agriculture Transportation Coalition, of which NPPC is a member, will submit comments on regulating detention and demurrage fees. In a related matter, the Senate this week confirmed Max Vekich as an FMC commissioner. He is a former longshoreman who served on the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s executive board and was a legislator for Washington state. (Click here to read the FMC’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, including where to submit comments.)

TO AVOID SUPPLY CHAIN DISRUPTIONS, PORT OF HOUSTON POSTPONES POLICY
The Port of Houston this week postponed reinstating a policy that required exporters with goods in refrigerated containers to use “pool” chassis at the terminal rather than their own. Pool chassis are parked in or near terminals for use in loading containers onto ships. The port was set to reinstate on Feb. 14 a rule that all reefer export loads use pool chassis but indefinitely postponed it “to avoid further disruptions to the supply chain.” The Agriculture Transportation Coalition, of which NPPC is a member, worked with the port to resolve the issue.

USDA PURCHASES PORK FOR FEDERAL FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
In the first quarter of the 2022 federal fiscal year – Oct. 1, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2021 – USDA purchased more than 20 million pounds of pork valued at nearly $50 million, according to the agency’s Agricultural Marketing Service. The product is used for emergency food assistance and various federal food programs, including the National School Lunch Program. (Click here for more information about USDA’s commodity purchase program.)

WHAT’S AHEAD

NPPC, NATIONAL PORK BOARD TO HOLD JOINT ANNUAL MEETING MARCH 9-11
NPPC and the National Pork Board will hold their joint annual business meeting – the National Pork Industry Forum – March 9-11 in Louisville, KY. During the in-person event – last year’s was virtual – NPPC will elect new officers and members to its board of directors. (For more information on the meeting, click here.)