For the Week Ending January 29, 2021

January 29, 2021

OSHA RELEASES GUIDANCE ON COVID MITIGATION, PREVENTION IN THE WORKPLACE
On Friday morning, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced guidance on mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace setting. Among specifics, it recommends employers implement COVID-19 prevention programs in the workplace, including wearing personal protective gear, maintaining at least six feet of distance where possible and installing barriers where physical distancing cannot be maintained. NPPC and the U.S. pork industry are committed to worker safety in plants and on farms. Thanks to numerous prevention efforts, pork packing plants are no longer experiencing widespread COVID outbreaks. Pork processing plants are an essential part of the U.S. food supply chain, and will continue to work to ensure the most affordable, high-quality protein is delivered to consumers here at home and around the globe. Last month, NPPC, the North American Meat Institute and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association sent letters to all 50 state governors, urging them to prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations for meat and poultry industry workers, directly after healthcare workers and other high-risk individuals.  

PHILIPPINES CONSIDERING REDUCING PORK IMPORT TARIFFS
The Philippines’ government plans to hold a hearing next week to discuss a proposal to reduce its pork tariffs for in-quota and out-quota imports. Specifically, the country’s Department of Agriculture (DA) is recommending pork imports under the minimum access volume (MAV) have a five percent tariff for the next six months and a 10 percent tariff for the succeeding six months, compared to the current 30 percent tariff. For pork imports outside the MAV, the DA proposes tariffs be reduced to 15 percent for the next six months and 20 percent in the succeeding six months, compared to the current 40 percent. The Philippine Tariff Commission plans to consider the DA proposal on Feb. 4. This proposal comes on the heels of NPPC’s meeting last week with U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Jose Manuel Romualdez. NPPC has been working with the Philippines’ government for more than a year to negotiate lower pork import tariffs. NPPC welcomes the DA’s proposal, as the Philippines holds tremendous market opportunities for U.S. pork exports. 

CONFIRMATION HEARINGS SCHEDULED FOR USDA, EPA NOMINATIONS
The Senate Agriculture Committee announced this week that it will hold a hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 2 to consider the nomination of Tom Vilsack as USDA secretary. The hearing begins at 10:30am ET and will be webcast here. NPPC supports Vilsack’s nomination and recently joined nearly 130 agricultural and food groups, urging for his confirmation. Additionally, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 3 to consider the nomination of Michael Regan as EPA administrator. The hearing begins at 2pm ET. NPPC supports Regan’s nomination and last week spearheaded a letter signed by 23 national agriculture organizations, urging the committee to confirm Regan. 

U.K. TO SUBMIT REQUEST TO JOIN CPTPP
The U.K. is poised to shortly submit a letter of intent to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Once the letter of intent has been formally submitted, the 11-country trading bloc will form a working group to conduct negotiations on whether to accept the U.K.’s request. Once completed, a final report is then presented to the bloc’s commission for approval.  The CPTPP includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, some of the world’s largest pork-consuming nations. One of NPPC’s top priorities this year is for the U.S to re-join CPTPP, which would provide significant, new market opportunities for U.S. exporters.

NPPC JOINS LETTER IN SUPPORT OF USTR NOMINATION
On Tuesday, NPPC joined more than 100 national and state farm groups in sending a letter to Congress in support of Katherine Tai’s nomination to be U.S. Trade Representative. “Ms. Tai is eminently qualified and deeply familiar with the mission of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in opening foreign markets and reducing barriers for U.S. food and agriculture workers and exporters for the benefit of consumers in the U.S. and across the globe. We especially value Ms. Tai’s demonstrated ability to build bipartisan support for trade policies,” the letter explained. A copy of the letter is available here. In a statement last month, NPPC said it looks forward to working with her on numerous trade-related issues, including the United States rejoining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a U.S.-UK free trade agreement that removes tariffs and all non-science-based barriers, and expanding access in heavily protected markets such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, India, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Ecuador, the EU and Jamaica. A copy of NPPC’s statement is available here.

NPPC’S GIORDANO HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR CHINA TO REMOVE RETALIATORY TARIFFS ON U.S. PORK
Earlier this month, NPPC Vice President and Counsel, Global Government Affairs Nick Giordano moderated a Global Business Dialogue panel about China trade issues and the challenges and opportunities for the United States, other nations, and the World Trade Organization. In brief remarks, he highlighted the importance of China removing its retaliatory duties on U.S. pork imports. “Pork is the most consumed meat protein in the world, and it is by far the most consumed meat in China, the world’s largest pork-consuming nation….China represents an enormous market opportunity for the farmers I represent,” he said. “While a significant part of our export growth can be attributed to the outbreak of African swine fever in the Chinese herd, we view China as an extremely important, long- term market for U.S. pork.  It is in our obvious interest that the United States and China eliminate retaliatory import duties, and find a way to effectively address the many bilateral trade issues confronting the two countries, without resorting to continued trade confrontation,” he added. In addition to China removing its retaliatory import duties on U.S. pork, a top NPPC priority is for the U.S. to rejoin the CPTPP.  

USDA HALTS CFAP3 PROCESSING, PAYMENTS WHILE UNDER REVIEW
On Wednesday, USDA posted a notice that it has suspended the processing and payments of additional payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), in accordance with the Jan. 20 White House memo on freezing regulatory actions from the previous administration. “FSA local offices will continue to accept applications during the evaluation period,” the notice said. “In the coming days, USDA and the Biden Administration intend to take additional steps to bring relief and support to all parts of food and agriculture during the coronavirus pandemic, including by ensuring producers have access to the capital, risk management tools, disaster assistance, and other federal resources,” the notice added. Earlier this month, USDA unveiled additional assistance to certain pork producers and contract growers as part of the first two rounds of CFAP.