For the Week Ending February 25, 2022

February 25, 2022


USDA TAKING APPLICATIONS FOR GRANTS TO EXPAND MEATPACKING CAPACITY

USDA Thursday made $215 million available for efforts to expand meatpacking capacity. In the first of two tranches, the agency is providing $150 million, with individual grants of up to $25 million – a level that could lead to meaningful investments on a larger scale – for construction or expansion of packing facilities and for equipment purchases. Applications for the grants are due by April 11. USDA in April will publish a Request For Information related to $40 million in workforce development grants, and the agency is making $25 million available – in $10 million and $15 million tranches – in technical assistance grants. It also has made available $100 million for loan guarantees. An additional $275 million in lending capital is expected to be provided this summer. Last August, NPPC submitted comments to USDA on how and to whom to distribute $500 million in funds the Biden administration dedicated to expanding capacity as a way to improve competition in the meatpacking industry. Among its recommendations, NPPC said the top amount on grants for capacity expansion should be made high enough to attract plants of all sizes. (For more information on and to apply for the grants, click here.)


SUPREME COURT AGAIN CONSIDERS WHETHER TO HEAR PROP. 12 CASE

At its weekly conference today, the U.S. Supreme Court again considered 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 at each of its previous conferences held this year has put off making a decision about reviewing 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 the case may come Monday.


NPPC WANTS PHILIPPINES TO EXTEND PORK IMPORT QUOTA RAISED LAST YEAR

NPPC is urging the Philippines to extend its expanded minimum access volume (MAV) quota for imported pork cuts. The MAV, which expired Jan. 31, was raised to 254,210 metric tons (MT) from just 54,210 MT last year. In a letter to the country’s Tariff Commission, the Philippines Meat Importers and Traders Association (MITA) also expressed support for an extension of the higher MAV. In May 2021, the Philippines government also cut the in-quota tariff on pork to 15% from 30% and the out-of-quota rate to 25% from 40%. Those reduced duty rates are in place through May 17. As a result of those actions, according to recently released data, U.S. pork exports to the Philippines soared last year, topping $204 million compared with $114.5 million in 2020, a 78.5% increase. NPPC worked with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, USDA and the government in Manilla to get the increased market access to the Pacific Island nation and is pressing them to make the expanded MAV and tariff reductions permanent.


GROUPS URGE SENATE TO QUICKLY APPROVE OCEAN SHIPPING REFORM BILL

NPPC was among 89 agriculture and business groups that this week expressed support for a Senate bill – the “Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022” (S. 3580) – that would address longstanding supply chain issues and shipping port disruptions. In a letter to bill sponsors Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Thune (R-SD), the organizations urged swift Senate passage of the measure and reconciliation of it with a House version approved late last year. The groups noted that supply chain problems are expected to continue throughout 2022 and will “have a significant effect on inflation as well as continued economic recovery.” They pointed out that one of the biggest issues facing cargo owners and other supply chain stakeholders is detention and demurrage fees charged by shipping ports, terminal operators and common carriers on exporters and importers. S. 3580, among other actions, would formalize a Federal Maritime Commission interpretive rule on detention and demurrage charges and define the parameters for using them. (Click here to read the letter.)


USDA EXTENDS DEADLINE FOR SPOT MARKET HOG PANDEMIC PROGRAM

USDA this week extended the deadline for pork producers to submit applications for the Spot Market Hog Pandemic Program (SMHPP) to April 15 from Feb. 25. Announced in March 2021, the program made $50 million available to producers who sold hogs on the spot market from April 16 to Sept. 1, 2020. USDA identified negotiated hogs as a sector of the agricultural industry significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that was not adequately addressed by previous pandemic relief programs and that experienced the greatest market price impacts of all hog purchase types. The program’s payments were halted in late December because of issues with eligibility requirements and discrepancies among USDA Farm Service Agency offices. FSA is making adjusts and updates to the SMHPP, which likely will be announced next month. NPPC in January met with FSA staff to discuss the state of the program and the eligibility criteria. (For more information on SMHPP, including the eligibility criteria, click here; for an application click here.)


USDA FINALIZES PLAN FOR MONITORING, WARNING ABOUT ‘ZOONOTIC’ DISEASES

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently released its final Strategic Framework to guide surveillance for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and for other emerging and zoonotic diseases – those spread from animals to people – in susceptible animals and to build an early warning system that alerts public health partners to potential threats. The agency noted that early detection and response to pathogens with zoonotic potential while still in animals is essential to limiting or preventing outbreaks in people. APHIS also launched a website to help stakeholders and the public stay up to date on its ongoing One Health initiatives as well as SARS-CoV-2 surveillance projects and other activities funded by the American Rescue Plan Act. In comments submitted on a draft framework, NPPC recommended, among other things, that APHIS support sufficient surveillance and laboratory capacity not only to conduct SARS-CoV2 testing but to help identify and respond to other potential animal disease epidemics.


IOWA SEN. ERNST CALLS FOR U.S. TO JOIN CPTPP

At a virtual trade round table held this week by Farmers for Free Trade, of which NPPC is a member, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said the United States should join the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific-Partnership. The CPTPP includes 11 Pacific Rim countries that have a combined 500 million consumers and $13.5 billion of GDP. NPPC, whose Assistant Vice President of International Affairs Maria Zieba moderated the panel on the impact of tariffs on U.S. agriculture and the American economy, has been urging the Biden administration to join the CPTPP. Zieba discussed retaliatory tariffs, including China’s 25% duty, on U.S. pork and the harm they are doing to pork producers. Several recent reports, including ones from USDA and the U.S. Commerce Department, have shown the ineffectiveness of tariffs.

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.)


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.)