For the Week Ending February 18, 2022

February 18, 2022

NPPC CALLS ON CONGRESS TO SHORE UP AGRICULTURAL INSPECTOR FUNDING
NPPC is calling on Congress to provide funding for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Agricultural Quarantine Inspection program. The AQI program funds the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agricultural inspectors who work at U.S. ports of entry to interdict contraband that could carry pests and diseases that would harm U.S. agriculture and the environment. APHIS requested $250 million since its inspection user fees have decreased significantly because of COVID-19 impacts on international travel and trade. NPPC previously led the effort to secure $635 million in emergency funding in 2020 to ensure this critical program is not jeopardized. NPPC also supports the hiring of additional CBP inspectors, as the agency is still several hundred inspectors short of the number needed to protect U.S. agriculture against pests and foreign animal diseases, including African swine fever. NPPC in 2020 led the effort to pass the Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act, which authorized CBP to hire an additional 720 agricultural inspectors. In a related matter, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs this week held a hearing on gaps in the country’s biosecurity preparedness and ways to fill them. Witnesses Christopher Currie, director of Homeland Security and Justice at the U.S. Government Accountability Office; Asha George, executive director of the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense; and Dr. Gerald Parker Jr., associate dean for Global One Health College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University said that while progress has been made, the United States is not sufficiently prepared for biological threats.

MANDATORY PRICE REPORTING EXTENDED IN CR
The Senate yesterday – and the House last week – approved a Continuing Resolution (CR) that keeps the federal government running and again extends USDA’s mandatory price reporting authority through March 11. The Livestock Mandatory Report Act (LMRA), which is critical to the U.S. pork industry, requires meatpackers to report to USDA the prices they pay for cattle, hogs and lambs and other information. USDA uses the data to publish twice-daily reports with information on pricing, contracting for purchase, supply and demand conditions for livestock, livestock production and livestock product values. NPPC has been urging congressional lawmakers not to let LMRA lapse and asking for a five-year reauthorization of it that includes enhancements that would benefit pork producers.

NPPC, FARM BUREAU AWAIT SUPREME COURT DECISION ON HEARING PROP. 12 CASE
The U.S. Supreme Court today was again set to consider at its weekly conference whether to take up the NPPC-American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) legal challenge to California’s Proposition 12, which bans the sale in the state of pork from hogs born to sows raised anywhere in housing that does not meet California’s arbitrary standards. The high court now has put off for the past six weeks making a decision on whether to review the NPPC-AFBF case, which argues that Prop. 12 violates the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, limiting states’ ability to regulate commerce outside their borders. Although Prop. 12 took effect Jan. 1, a California Superior Court recently delayed its effective date until 180 days after final implementing regulations are issued. The California Department of Food and Agriculture is now writing those rules. An announcement on the Supreme Court’s decision to review, reject or again put off making a decision on the case could come early Monday.

USDA PROPOSES SALMONELLA PERFORMANCE STANDARDS FOR SOME PORK
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced its proposed pathogen reduction performance standards for Salmonella in raw ground and mechanically separated pork and raw pork cuts, including those that have been injected or mechanical tenderized. The proposal also outlines how FSIS plans to assess whether establishments producing those pork products are effectively addressing Salmonella, using a moving window of FSIS sampling results. It also discusses other verification activities related to Salmonella sampling and testing of raw pork products. According to the proposed rule, approximately a year after the new performance standards are made final, FSIS will post each establishment’s performance category online. (Click here to read the Federal Register notice on the proposed standards.)

COURT ORDERS FARM AIR EMISSIONS RULE TO BE SENT BACK TO EPA
A federal District Court judge on Monday remanded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for revision regulations that exempt livestock farmers from reporting to state and local authorities routine emissions from their farms. Environmental and animal-rights groups in 2018 brought a lawsuit against the Fair Agricultural Reporting Method (FARM) Act, which Congress approved with overwhelming bipartisan support after a federal appeals court rejected a 2008 EPA rule that exempted farmers from reporting routine farm emissions under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). Known as the “Superfund Law,” CERCLA is used primarily to clean hazardous waste sites but also includes a mandatory federal reporting component. The appeals court ruling would have forced tens of thousands of livestock farmers to “guesstimate” and report emissions from manure on their farms to the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center and subjected them to citizen lawsuits from activist groups. In implementing the law, EPA also clarified that farmers did not need to report routine emissions to state and local first responders under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) – an adjunct to CERCLA. First responders have been clear they consider such reports unnecessary and burdensome. Activist groups sued to have the FARM Act regulations vacated and to force farms to immediately begin reporting emissions. In August 2021, in a secret backroom deal days after the court granted NPPC’s and other livestock groups’ request to intervene in the activists’ lawsuit, EPA met and agreed to settle the lawsuit with the activist groups. EPA provided no notice to affected livestock farmers about the settlement until it asked the court in November to order the rule returned to the agency to be redrafted. Under the court’s order, farmers will not be required to take any action until EPA completes a new rulemaking.

USTR CRITICAL OF CHINA’S WTO COMPLIANCE
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative this week issued its annual report to Congress on China’s compliance with World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments. Largely critical of China’s approach to trade, USTR said the Asian nation has failed to embrace the market-oriented principles on which WTO rules are based. Specifically on agricultural trade, the trade office noted that China is “a difficult and unpredictable market for U.S. agricultural exporters, largely because of inconsistent enforcement of regulations and selective intervention in the market by China’s regulatory authorities.” In the report, USTR does point out the advances made through the U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement, noting that the agreement addressed many non-tariff barriers to agricultural trade and made “significant reforms in some agricultural sub-sectors, including meat and poultry products and facility registration.” But China has failed to take meaningful action on other Phase One commitments, including a required risk assessment for the use of the feed additive ractopamine in pork and beef production, said USTR. China also still has a 25% retaliatory tariff on a host of U.S. goods, including pork, a response to U.S. duties on Chinese steel and aluminum. NPPC is continuing to press USTR and the Biden administration to urge China to remove that tariff, which in large part caused a nearly 26% drop in U.S. pork exports to China in 2021. (Click here to read the report.)

OMB GETS NEW USDA ‘POULTRY RULE,’ STAGE SET FOR NEW GIPSA REGULATION
USDA this week sent a new regulation related to the poultry contract grower tournament system – the so-called Poultry Rule – to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review, the final step before a regulation or proposed rule is finalized. In December 2016, USDA – at the end of Tom Vilsack’s first tenure as Agriculture Secretary – proposed a similar regulation as part of a package of Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rules. Those regulations, which USDA withdrew in November last year, would have set criteria the Secretary could consider when determining whether a live poultry dealer’s use of a ranking system for payments to poultry growers was unfair, unjustly discriminatory or deceptive or gave an undue or unreasonable preference, advantage, prejudice or disadvantage to one grower over another. It also would have made such practices, absent a legitimate business justification, per se violations of the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) even if they did not harm competition or cause competitive injury, a longstanding prerequisite for winning a PSA case, according to eight U.S. appellate court rulings. (During debate on the 2008 Farm Bill, which called for clarifications to the PSA, Congress considered and rejected eliminating the competitive harm requirement.) NPPC supports rules that recognize the right of farmers to freely enter into contracts to sell and buy livestock and poultry.

PANEL DISCUSSES NEED FOR COLLABORATION IN FIGHT AGAINST ASF
NPPC Chief Veterinarian Dr. Liz Wagstrom this week participated on a panel about African swine fever (ASF) and the need for federal, state and pork industry collaboration to prevent, prepare for and control the pig-only disease. Also on the panel, which was held at the winter policy meeting of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, were USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Administrator Kevin Shea; Dr. Michael Neult, state veterinarian for South Carolina and director of Clemson University Livestock-Poultry Health; and Dr. Patrick Webb, assistant chief veterinarian at the National Pork Board. While the United States remains free of ASF, the disease was detected last summer in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the first time in 40 years it’s been in the Western Hemisphere.

GROUPS ISSUE OPEN LETTER ON CONCERNS OVER HEMP IN ANIMAL FEED
NPPC recently joined 16 other livestock organizations, feed associations, veterinary groups and organizations of public health officials on an open letter, urging state agriculture departments to support more education and scientific research on the safety of hemp as an animal-feed ingredient before it is approved by state or federal governments. The Association of American Feed Control Officials has noted that interest in using hemp in commercial animal feed accelerated after passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which expanded the legal production of hemp in the United States. The use of hemp in animal feed falls under the jurisdiction of FDA and state regulatory programs. There is a push in Congress to allow the use of hemp in feed even though scientific research about its safety and FDA review have not been completed.

WHAT’S AHEAD

NPPC’S ZIEBA TO MODERATE FEB. 23 PANEL ON IMPACT OF TARIFFS
Farmers for Free Trade, of which NPPC is a member, Feb. 23 will host a virtual event on the impact of tariffs on U.S. agriculture and the American economy with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and a round table of farmers and economic experts. NPPC Assistant Vice President of International Affairs Maria Zieba will moderate the panel. Several recent reports, including ones from USDA and the U.S. Commerce Department, have shown the ineffectiveness of tariffs. (For more information and to register for the event, which begins at 10 a.m. Eastern via Zoom, click here.)

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.)

NATIONAL AG DAY SET FOR NEXT MONTH
National Ag Day will be celebrated March 22. Hosted by the Agriculture Council of America and sponsored by dozens of other agricultural groups, including NPPC, Ag Day this year will focus on “Growing a Climate for Tomorrow,” highlighting farmers’ efforts to protect the environment. Because of COVID restrictions, most of the Ag Day events in Washington, DC, will be virtual. The Celebration of Modern Agriculture on the National Mall, which runs March 21-22, will be live. (For more information, click here.)