For the Week Ending February 12, 2021

February 12, 2021

PHILIPPINES CONTINUES DEBATE TO RAISE PORK IMPORT QUOTA 
This week, the Philippines’ government moved one step closer to expanding the quota for pork imports. Specifically, the government is proposing to raise the minimum access volume (MAV) to 400,000 metric tons (MT) to address shortages and higher prices for the preferred protein. The current MAV is 54,000 MT and the country’s initial proposal increased the figure to 164,000 MT. The proposal will need to be approved by the MAV Management Committee before it is submitted to President Duterte for approval. The proposal would then need to be ratified by Congress. This latest proposal comes on the heels of NPPC’s recent meeting with the Philippines Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Manuel Romualdez. NPPC has been working with the Philippines’ government for more than a year to negotiate an expansion of the quota and lower pork import tariffs. NPPC welcomes the government’s proposal, as the Philippines holds tremendous market opportunities for U.S. pork exports. 

SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVES REGAN NOMINATION TO HEAD EPA
On Tuesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee approved the nomination of Michael Regan as the next EPA administrator. Following the 14-6 committee vote, the full Senate is shortly expected to approve his nomination. NPPC supports Regan’s nomination and recently spearheaded a letter signed by 23 national agriculture organizations, urging the EPW committee to confirm Regan. As Department of Environmental Quality secretary in North Carolina, a leading pork-producing state, Regan always had an open door, valued diverse points of view, and worked to find solutions that ensured science and data were guiding decisions. 

AG GROUPS URGE SWIFT CONFIRMATION FOR USDA DEPUTY SECRETARY NOMINEE
NPPC joined a letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee with nearly 60 agriculture groups on Thursday in support of Jewel Bronaugh as USDA deputy secretary. She is currently Virginia’s agriculture commissioner and previously was the Virginia state executive director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency. “Our nation is facing considerable challenges with regard to pandemic response, failing infrastructure, climate, diversity and inclusion, trade, immigration, and many others,” wrote the groups to Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-Ark.). “The USDA needs knowledgeable and experienced leaders at the helm to navigate through these challenges and to implement bipartisan solutions. We are grateful that President Biden has moved quickly to fill these senior positions with people of Dr. Bronaugh’s caliber and ask that the Senate do likewise,” they added. A copy of the letter is available here

ITC FINDS IMPORTED BLUEBERRIES NOT CAUSING INJURY TO U.S. PRODUCERS
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) on Thursday ruled that imported blueberries aren’t causing substantial injury to U.S. producers. “As a result, the investigation will end, and the commission will not recommend a remedy to the president,” the ITC said in a brief statement. The “Section 201” investigation was requested last year by the U.S. Trade Representative. 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.  

HOUSE AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE APPROVES COVID RELIEF PACKAGE
On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Committee approved a $16 billion agriculture and nutrition package that will be folded into the larger COVID relief package that Democrats are crafting. Among key provisions, the package would provide $3.6 billion to USDA to ensure the continuity of the food and agriculture supply chains. Specifically, the funds would be used for USDA to purchase and distribute food and agricultural commodities, including pork, and provide grants and loans to small and mid-sized farms, food processors and distributors. NPPC supports efforts to ensure the continuity of meat supply chain. The overall COVID relief package is moving through Congress under a budget reconciliation process, allowing passage through a simple majority rather than a 60-vote approval. In late December, then-President Trump signed into law the most recent COVID relief package, which among other provisions included funding to compensate hog farmers who were forced to euthanize animals due to COVID-related supply chain disruptions. The provision was among several high-priority NPPC asks, and NPPC has and will continue to work with the Biden administration to establish rules that will govern the funding. 

HOUSE AG COMMITTEE UNVEILS NEW MEMBER ROSTER
On Wednesday, House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott (D-Ga.) announced the new Democratic committee roster for the 117th Congress. New Democratic members include Reps. Bobby Rush (Ill.), Ann Kuster (N.H.), Ro Khanna (Calif.), Lou Correa (Calif.) and Del. Gregorio Sablan from the Northern Mariana Islands. New Republican members include Kat Cammack (Fla.), Michael Cloud (Texas), Randy Feenstra (Iowa), Michelle Fischbach (Minn.), Tracy Mann (Kan.), Mary Miller (Ill.) and Barry Moore (Ala.).  

EU, MERCOSUR TRADE DEAL RATIFICATION COULD BE FAST-TRACKED 
The EU and the South American Mercosur bloc are renewing talks to ratify their 2019 trade agreement and discussing a fast-track option to quickly put the deal in place. The trade agreement between the EU and the Mercosur trade bloc (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay) was completed in June 2019 and among other provisions, provided lower tariffs on a slew of agricultural commodities, including pork. The renewed talks come as French President Emmanuel Macron eased off previous criticism for the deal, provided that environmental commitments from the Mercosur bloc are adopted. Meantime, later this month the European Commission will launch sessions with member countries to discuss any newly considered content.  

WTO HOLDING MEETING NEXT WEEK TO CONSIDER NEW WTO DIRECTOR GENERAL
The WTO General Council will convene a special meeting on Feb. 15 to consider the appointment of former Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as its next director general. The WTO selects its director general through consensus, not an outright election. Last fall, Okonjo-Iweala emerged as the consensus choice to lead the WTO for all but one member—the United States—which backed South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee. That led to a stalemate that essentially halted any WTO actions, until earlier this month when Myung-hee withdrew her nomination. In a recent statement, the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) office said it expressed “strong support” for Okonjo-Iweala. “Dr. Okonjo-Iweala brings a wealth of knowledge in economics and international diplomacy from her 25 years with the World Bank and two terms as Nigerian Finance Minister….The United States stands ready to engage in the next phase of the WTO process for reaching a consensus decision on the WTO Director General. The Biden-Harris Administration looks forward to working with a new WTO Director General to find paths forward to achieve necessary substantive and procedural reform of the WTO,” the USTR statement added.