For the Week Ending February 6, 2009

February 6, 2009

Washington, February 6, 2009 


Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., this week introduced legislation to separate the medical device and drug divisions from the food section of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The bill was dropped after the latest tainted food scare – a salmonella outbreak linked to peanut butter. The measure would give FDA more power to recall food, seize unsafe food and impose fines on companies that don’t meet food-safety standards. The new food division would have its own commissioner. DeLauro’s FDA bill follows one introduced last week by Reps. John Dingell, D-Mich., Bart Stupak, D-Mich., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J. That legislation would require foreign factories that produce drugs and medical devices to be inspected at least every two years, the standard for domestic companies. New fees on imports would help pay for more inspections, and the bill also would allow FDA to impose larger fines on companies for faulty imported and domestic products. NPPC opposes creation of a single food-safety agency and mandatory food recalls.


Robert F. Kennedy Jr., in testimony Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee confirmed that he believes hog farmers are a greater threat to Americans than Osama bin Laden. He responded to a question from Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who asked about a 2002 comment attributed to Kennedy published in an Iowa newspaper. Kennedy said then that “large-scale hog producers are a greater threat to the United States and U.S. democracy than Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network.” King asked, “Is that an accurate quote?” to which Kennedy responded, “I don’t know if that’s an accurate quote, but I believe it, and I support it.” (Click here to view the exchange between Kennedy and King.) Kennedy is president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a New York-based environmental organization that is bent on suing livestock operations out of business. He was testifying on President Bush’s so-called midnight rule-makings, regulations finalized during the last weeks of the administration. (Most of those rules were years in the making, and all were subject to notice and public comment.) Kennedy has accused the pork industry of dumping millions of tons of animal waste into the nation’s rivers. Data from the top eight pork-producing states shows that over the past nine years less than 1 percent of hog farms have had any type of manure release. Additionally, most pork operations now are subject to a new rule that sets a zero-discharge standard for manure. NPPC worked for 10 years with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the regulation, which it calls “tough but fair.”


NPPC led a successful effort to eliminate from the European Union’s Additional Residue Testing Program the testing of pork for nitrofurans. A class of antibiotic used to treat certain bacterial infections, nitrofurans in January 1992 were withdrawn for use in food animals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Despite that ban, the EU has continued to require U.S. pork and beef exports to be tested for residues of nitrofurans. In addition to eliminating that non-tariff trade barrier, NPPC also worked in 2008 to have testing for sedatives removed from the EU program. In spite of the EU’s nitrofurans testing requirement and other non-science based sanitary/phytosanitary regimes, the U.S. pork industry has over the past 10 years steadily increased exports to the EU. U.S. pork exports have risen to nearly $157 million in 2008 from $21.5 million in 1999. (For more information about the EU’s meat testing requirements, click here.)


The number of hog farms in the United States fell to 65,640 in 2007 from 76,250 in 2002, about a 14 percent decline, according the 2007 Census of Agriculture released yesterday by USDA. Sales of hogs and pigs, however, rose to more than $18 billion in 2007 from $12.4 billion in 2002. The census provides benchmarks for U.S. agricultural production, location of production, structure, ownership and demographics. The latest census, which is conducted every five years, shows that overall there were more than 2.2 million farms in 2007, 75,810 more than in 2002, or a 4 percent increase. (A farm is defined as “any place from which $1,000 worth of agricultural product was, or normally would be, produced and sold during the Census year.”) Much of the growth occurred in New England and in a band that runs from Louisiana and Texas northward through the Rocky Mountains to Montana. The census also shows that farms with cattle and calves still account for by far the largest number of farms in the U.S. at 656,476, or 29.6 percent of all farms. Hog operations account for 3 percent of the farms. Among other interesting findings, the census showed an increase over 2002 of 30 percent in female farm operators, 10 percent more Hispanic operators and increases in American Indian, Asian and black operators. It found that 23,400 farms use on-farm energy generation through such methods as windmills, solar collectors and methane digester. And, while farms owned by families and individuals lost some ground, in 2007 they still ran nearly 87 percent of all farms in the country



Mark up in the House Agriculture Committee is set for next week on a bill to bring greater transparency to futures markets and a sense of order to the over-the-counter market for swaps and other credit derivatives. The panel Tuesday held the last of nine hearings on derivatives and excessive speculation in the futures markets. Derivatives – contracts that gamble on the future prices of assets – are secondary assets, such as options and futures, which derive their value from primary assets, such as currency, commodities, stocks and bonds. The current price of an asset is determined by the market demand for and supply of the asset, but its future price typically is unknown. In the future, the price may increase, decrease or remain the same. Buyers and sellers often hedge their bets against this uncertainty about future price by making a contract for future trading at a specified price. The contract is called a derivative. While NPPC has no position on the Agriculture Committee bill, which is sponsored by panel Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., it does support transparency in the futures markets.


USDA next Thursday will release new 10-year agricultural projections, which cover agricultural crop and livestock commodities, agricultural trade and aggregate indicators such as farm income and food prices through 2018. The projections do not represent a USDA forecast but a conditional, long-run scenario based on specific assumptions about farm policy, the weather, the economy and international developments. Provisions of the 2008 Farm Act are incorporated into the projections and are assumed to remain in effect through 2018. Normal weather also is assumed throughout the projection period. “USDA Agricultural Projections to 2018” will be released on the Office of the Chief Economist Web site at Copies also can be ordered from the National Technical Information Service at or 1-800-999-6779. Request document OCE-2009-1.


NPPC and the National Pork Board will hold their 2009 annual meeting March 5-7 in Dallas. 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