For the Week Ending June 11, 2021

June 11, 2021

URGENT GOV’T APPEAL OF DAMAGING COURT RULING DOMINATES WORLD PORK EXPO DISCUSSIONS 
After a two-year hiatus, NPPC’s World Pork Expo returned this week, helping to shine a spotlight on a number of top U.S. pork producer priorities. Among the most urgent is the need for the administration appeal of a recent federal district court ruling striking down faster harvest facility line speeds. The federal court’s decision—which takes effect on June 29—struck down a provision of USDA’s New Swine Inspection System (NSIS) allowing for faster harvest facility line speeds. NSIS, initiated during the Clinton administration and evaluated at five pilot plants over 20 years, was approved for industry-wide adoption in 2019. According to Iowa State University Economist Dr. Dermot Hayes, the court ruling will result in a 2.5 percent loss in pork packing plant capacity nationwide. “…Regionally, we’re going to experience more of a 20-25% loss in harvest capacity. My concern is, I’m in that region,” NPPC President-Elect Terry Wolters told CNBC on Thursday. “The administration can prevent this from happening,” added NPPC President Jen Sorenson. Other top U.S. pork producer priorities included legal action on California’s Proposition 12, expanded export market access, and African swine fever prevention. Read more here

CALIFORNIA ACKNOWLEDGES PROP 12 ANIMAL HOUSING STANDARDS NOT BASED ON SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE
In its recently issued proposed rules for implementing California’s Proposition 12, the state acknowledged the ballot initiative’s arbitrary animal housing standards for hogs are not based on specific, peer-reviewed published scientific literature, and the initiative will increase in-state pork prices, impacting low-income residents especially hard. NPPC shared those findings in a filing this week to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation have filed a lawsuit with the court, asking it to strike down Proposition 12 as unconstitutional under the dormant clause. Set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2022, it applies to any pork sold in California, whether raised there or outside of the state’s borders. The proposal is open for comment through July 12; California was required to finalize implementation rules by Sept 1, 2019. As NPPC Assistant Vice President and General Counsel Michael Formica told reporters this week, “We need final rules and California has not issued final rules. They’re not even close.” NPPC anticipates a court ruling in its lawsuit against California by mid-summer.  

OSHA PUBLISHES HEALTHCARE-LIMITED EMERGENCY TEMPORARY STANDARD
On Thursday, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) issued its long-awaited Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for workplace safety during COVID-19. The new standard is limited solely to healthcare workers, and OSHA provided only voluntary guidance and best practices for meat processing by updating its general guidance on mitigating COVID in the workplace. That guidance recommends staggered arrival, departure, and break times, as well as better ventilation, visual cues, and barriers for when workers must be in close proximity. In the past year, U.S. meat processing facilities have collectively spent more than $1.5 billion on worker safety practices and investments to protect our essential employees. To read the ETS, click here. To read the general workplace guidance, click here

USDA TO INVEST $4 BILLION IN FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN OVERHAUL
USDA announced this week it will invest more than $4 billion to strengthen the U.S. food supply chain across four sectors: production, processing, distribution and consumer markets. The announcement is part of President Biden’s Build Back Better initiative and funding will include a mix of grants, loans and other financing. While the agency provided few initial details, among specifics it aims to expand small and medium-sized meat processing capacity. NPPC recognizes the importance for increased pork harvest capacity in the United States and its immediate priority is urging the administration to intervene in the federal district court decision that struck down the line speed provisions of USDA’s New Swine Inspection System. “What have we consistently heard from both sides of the aisle? We need more capacity, and we need to preserve small producers,” NPPC Vice President and Counsel, Global Government Affairs Nick Giordano said during the organization’s press conference at World Pork Expo. “If this judge’s order is left standing, in one fell swoop, 2.5 percent of pork harvest capacity is going to be knocked out,” he added. NPPC fully supports bringing small regional plants up to federal inspection standards, but these plants would increase commercial production capacity by less than one percent. Learn more about the issue here

EPA TO REVISE WOTUS DEFINITION
On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will revise the definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS). Specifically, the Department of Justice is filing a motion requesting remand of the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), issued by the Trump administration to replace the Obama administration-finalized Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule. EPA said it plans to initiate a new rulemaking process, and anticipates developing a new rule that defines WOTUS “and is informed by a robust engagement process.” NPPC looks forward to constructively engaging with the administration and we are hopeful the voice of agriculture, the respect for private property rights, and the practical needs of farmers to produce food is recognized and appreciated. NPPC supports the NWPR and has actively served in a leadership role in the litigation involving the Obama-era WOTUS rule, as well as challenges to the NWPR. 

AG ASSOCIATIONS URGE SENATE TO ADDRESS LABOR REFORM 
NPPC, through its membership in the Agricultural Workforce Coalition (AWC), joined nearly 300 other trade associations this week in urging the Senate to make meaningful immigration reform to address labor shortages in the agriculture sector. Specifically, the groups are advocating for expansion of the H-2A visa program to allow for year-round, uncapped labor. “Without immediate action by the Senate, the federal government’s outdated policies and broken immigration system will force many farmers to consider whether they can continue in labor-intensive agriculture,” wrote the groups. “As representatives of agricultural organizations throughout the United States, we stand ready to help you develop and pass legislation to fully address the needs of American farmers by stabilizing the current workforce, addressing enormous costs to use the H2A program, and enabling year-round producers to access the H-2A program.” Earlier this year, the U.S. House passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA), which creates a limited number of non-seasonal H-2As. While this was a good, first step, NPPC is urging Congress to address labor reform that both opens the H-2A visa program to year-round labor, without a cap, and provides legal status for agricultural workers already in the country. A copy of the letter is available here

USDA SEEKING PROJECT PROPOSALS TO ADDRESS ANIMAL DISEASE PREPAREDNESS 
On Tuesday, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced it is seeking project proposals for FY2021 funding as part of the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP) and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN). The agency is also announcing its next round of purchases for the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank (NAVVCB). Specifically, APHIS will purchase an additional $14.9 million in Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine for the NAVVCB, which the agency would use in the event of an FMD outbreak. The 2018 Farm Bill provided funding for these programs. NPPC was instrumental in advocating for establishment of the FMD vaccine bank as part of the 2018 Farm Bill, and strongly advocated for funding in the Farm Bill to help prevent the import and spread of foreign animal diseases into the United States. In FY 2021, APHIS will make available up to $20 million in funds for NADPRP and NAHLN. Proposals must be submitted by Aug. 6. For more information, visit here

SENATE AG COMMITTEE APPROVES NOMINATION OF USDA GENERAL COUNSEL
On Thursday, the Senate Agriculture Committee approved the nomination of Janie Simms Hipp to be USDA’s general counsel. Hipp, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, served in several posts at USDA during the Obama administration, including director of the Office of Tribal Relations. She is currently the CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund. Her nomination now heads to the full Senate for consideration. Last month, NPPC joined 18 food and agriculture trade associations in sending a letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee in support of Hipp’s nomination. 

NPPC URGES FDA TO NOT OVERLY COMPLICATE ANTIMICROBIAL MEDICINE DURATION ISSUE
In comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday, NPPC urged the agency to not overly complicate an upcoming process to define durations of use for antimicrobial drugs intended for use in or on feed. “Pork producers work with their veterinarians to reduce the need to use antimicrobials and, when needed, to administer them in a responsible manner,” NPPC explained in comments on the FDA concept paper. While the FDA concept paper is aimed at pharmaceutical companies, NPPC is concerned this process could remove valuable tools to protect animal health from the market, it noted. Additionally, “[i]f the FDA makes the process overly complex, costly or time consuming, pharmaceutical companies may cease manufacturing these products rather than investing resources to proceed through the proposed process,” NPPC noted. A copy of NPPC’s full comments is available here.  

NPPC BOARD MEMBER DUANE STATELER INDUCTED INTO OHIO AG HALL OF FAME
Ohio hog farmer and NPPC board member Duane Stateler was inducted Thursday evening into the Hancock County, Ohio, Agriculture Hall of Fame. The award recognizes Hancock County community members who have made outstanding contributions to agriculture. Stateler has a sixth-generation family farm in McComb, Ohio, running a 7,200 head-to-finish hog operation with his son Anthony, while also growing corn, soybeans and wheat on 1,200 acres. Stateler is a strong believer in environmental and conservation education. His farm is a participant in the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network—a partnership between the Ohio Farm Bureau and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services—which highlights conservation practices in the agriculture sector. Stateler has also served on the Hancock County Farm Bureau Board, founded the McComb Stockaders 4-H Club, and has served as a volunteer firefighter for more than 30 years. NPPC congratulates Stateler on his induction and his many years of service to the U.S. pork industry.