For the Week Ending February 27, 2009

February 27, 2009

Washington, February 27, 2009 


Citing an increasing vulnerability to foreign animal disease, NPPC Wednesday urged the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to lend his support to a mandatory National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The animal ID system would be used to help animal health officials trace diseased or exposed animals to their farm of origin within 48 hours, making control and eradication of any disease easier. The key component of such a system is registration of premises, which requires the collection of publicly available data, including the physical location of an operation, telephone number and contact information. In a letter sent to Sec. Tom Vilsack, NPPC noted that USDA has struggled since 2004 to implement a viable NAIS that serves the needs of animal agriculture. It pointed out that the agency’s past efforts to establish an animal ID system have been fraught with indecision in the department over whether it should be mandatory or voluntary, hampered by inadequate funding to advance implementation and opposed by extremist groups that do not understand the importance of premises identification and pre-harvest traceability for disease management. “The U.S. livestock industry is increasingly vulnerable to foreign animal disease because of the potential spread through increased international travel and trade,” said NPPC in its letter to Vilsack. “Even more frightening is the threat of deliberate introduction of disease by terrorists.” Should the United States’ trading partners close their markets to U.S. meat exports, the U.S. pork industry alone would lose billions of dollars, according to NPPC. In 2008, U.S. pork exports totaled nearly $5 billion. The U.S. swine industry has long supported a mandatory NAIS for all relevant species of animal agriculture and has asked pork packers to require premises identification numbers as a condition of sale. Over the past three years, NPPC and the National Pork Board have worked with USDA to implement a swine ID system and have registered more than 80 percent of the approximately 67,300 swine premises.



Rejecting arguments made by NPPC and other livestock organizations, a federal court this week upheld a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision to regulate farms for dust. NPPC had asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington to review EPA’s decision to regulate emissions of coarse particulate matter (PM), or dust, in rural areas. The organization had argued that while EPA identified problems with coarse PM in urban areas – where it is mostly the byproduct of engine combustion – it failed to show any health effects associated with rural dust, which comes mostly from naturally occurring organic materials such as plants, sand and soil. While recognizing the distinctions between urban and rural PM sources, EPA nonetheless decided to regulate agricultural operations for coarse PM. A 2002 National Academy of Sciences report found that there were no scientifically credible methodologies for estimating emissions from animal feeding operations. The appeals court accepted EPA’s decision as “reasonable.” In rejecting arguments from NPPC and other livestock organizations, the court adopted the so-called precautionary principle, placing the burden on the livestock industry to prove that its operations are not harming the public or the environment. Said the court: “In assessing the scientific evidence, the [livestock organizations] have mistakenly equated an absence of certainty about dangerousness with the existence of certainty about safety.” Prior to the court ruling decision, EPA had the burden of showing there was harm to human health and the environment that needed to be addressed and of explaining why its proposed regulation was necessary to address that harm. EPA issued the particulate matter rule in 2006, before a two-year emissions monitoring study of animal feeding operations got underway. The study, which is expected to be completed by January 2010, was part of a 2005 agreement between EPA and the livestock industry. Data from the study is to be used by EPA to develop scientifically credible methodologies for estimating emissions from livestock operations and to promulgate new compliance standards and guidelines. More than 2,700 animal feeding operations, including 1,900 pork farms, signed the so-called air consent agreement. Under the regulations, livestock operations could be treated as stationary air emissions sources. They could be required to adopt air-mitigation technologies, be subjected to certain restrictions, such as “no farming” days and be required to obtain emissions permits under federal and state laws. As a result, pork production operations could face monitoring for particulate matter such as dust from dirt roads and fields and for chemicals, including ammonia, that can form particulate matter. They also may be subject to Clean Air Act “new source review” requirements any time a modification or improvement to their operations is made.



In a victory for U.S. pork producers, the Philippine government indicated this week that it will maintain current rules for the administration of its tariff rate quota (TRQ) for pork, preserving U.S. access to a fast-growing market for U.S. pork exports. The Philippine government had threatened in recent months to severely restrict pork imports by denying to legitimate Philippine importers the licenses they need to import pork within the country’s 54,210 metric ton pork TRQ. (Amounts of imported pork below the TRQ are subject to a lower, or in-quota, tariff rate. Once imports reach the TRQ threshold a higher tariff rate kicks in.) In response to that threat, NPPC filed a petition with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in December 2008, requesting removal of the Philippines from the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences (GSP). In filing the petition, NPPC noted that the Philippine action would have violated World Trade Organization rules and a 1999 Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and the Philippines. GSP is a program designed to provide developing countries such as the Philippines with preferential duty access to the U.S. market. In 2007, the Philippines exported $1.1 billion worth of products to the United States under the GSP program. The Philippine decision to maintain its current TRQ administration rules preserves a growing market for U.S. pork exports. U.S. pork sales to the Philippines in 2008 surged by 360 percent to 25,300 metric tons valued at $46 million.



President Obama Thursday released a broad outline of his budget proposal, a blue print of the administration’s spending priorities, and agriculture wouldn’t fare well under it. A more detailed plan is expected to be issued in April. Among the agriculture highlights in the proposal:

  • Phases out over three years direct payments to farmers with sales of more than $500,000 and caps commodity supports at $250,000.
  • Improves enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act and investments in the “full diversity” of agricultural production, including organic farming and local food systems.
  • Loans and grants totaling $250 million for increasing the national supply of home-grown American renewable fuels.
  • Funds for several conservation programs, including the Conservation Security, the Conservation Reserve and the Environmental Quality Incentives programs.
  • Improves safety of the nation’s supply of meat, poultry and processed egg products to ensure they are wholesome and accurately labeled and packaged.
  • Increases by $1 billion funding for improving access to and enhancing the nutritional quality of school meals, for expanding nutrition research and evaluation and for improving program oversight.
  • Reduces funding for the Market Access Program, which promotes U.S. products overseas.



Fatigued pigs at California packing plants will not be prohibited from entering the food supply, a federal court in the state ruled late last week. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in Fresno said the 1907 Federal Meat Inspection Act preempts a state law, which went into effect Jan. 1, that banned livestock that cannot walk from being slaughtered. The court agreed with arguments made by the National Meat Association and the American Meat Institute, which said the statute was too broad and that it would prevent the processing of otherwise healthy pigs. NPPC opposes efforts to keep fatigued pigs out of the food supply. The vast majority of such hogs, the organization says, recover after rest and pose no threat to the safety of the meat. USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service recently issued guidance to its inspectors for dealing with fatigued or “slow” hogs.



As a way to better connect grocery retailers with the producers of food, Farmer Goes to Market was launched by Food Chain Communications in partnership with National Grocers Association. NPPC is a sponsor of the communications program, which is designed to educate retailers and, ultimately, consumers about food production. NPPC member Dr. Craig Rowles, a veterinarian and partner and general manager of Iowa’s Elite Pork Partnership, participated in Farmer Goes to Market at the 2009 NGA Annual Concept Show earlier this month, talking with show attendees about antibiotic use in pork production. To see highlights from the recent Farmer’s Goes to Market presentations, visit



President Barack Obama Tuesday announced his intention to nominate Kathleen A. Merrigan to be Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Merrigan currently is an assistant professor and Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment M.S. and Ph.D. Program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston. She was appointed administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service in 1999 by then-President Clinton. Prior to that, Merrigan was a senior analyst at the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture and an expert consultant at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome. From 1987 to 1992 she was a staff member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, where she helped develop the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 which mandated national organic standards and a program of federal accreditation. Merrigan holds a doctorate in environmental planning and policy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Texas and a bachelor’s degree in political science and English from Williams College.





The House Committee on Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry is scheduled to hold a hearing March 11 on USDA’s National Animal Identification System (NAIS). The U.S. swine industry has long supported a mandatory NAIS for all relevant species of animal agriculture and has asked pork packers to require premises identification numbers as a condition of sale. Over the past three years, NPPC and the National Pork Board have worked with USDA to implement a swine ID system that complies with the NAIS and have registered more than 80 percent of the approximately 67,300 swine premises.



NPPC and the National Pork Board will hold their 2009 annual meeting next Thursday through Saturday in Dallas. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has been invited to address pork producer delegates at the National Pork Industry Forum. For more information on the meeting, call (515) 278-8012. Media inquiries should be directed to Dave Warner at (202) 347-3600; for media registration, visit