For the Week Ending June 12, 2009

June 12, 2009

Washington, June 12, 2009 

PORK PRODUCERS HAVE CONCERNS WITH HOUSE FOOD-SAFETY BILL

While they support efforts to strengthen the U.S. food- and animal feed-safety systems, pork producers have a number of concerns with food-safety reform legislation approved June 10 by a U.S. House subcommittee, said NPPC. Chief among those concerns are provisions that would give authority to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct on-farm inspections, to quarantine geographic areas over food-safety problems and to create a “farm-to-fork” tracing system for food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture already oversees farms, can quarantine animals when a state asks it to for animal health reasons and has an animal identification system that can trace back an animal to its farm of origin within 48 hours, NPPC pointed out. The “Food Safety and Enhancement Act of 2009” also would allow FDA to write safety standards for on-farm issues, such as animal control, manure use and employee hygiene. Food from farms would be considered “adulterated” if the operations did not follow the safety standards outlined by FDA. The bill, which was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s health subcommittee and which could be considered by the full committee next week, also would require new records to be kept by farms and require those records to be compliant with FDA standards. But farmers keep records according to state laws and industry programs, said NPPC. Complying with FDA record-keeping requirements would necessitate farmers overhauling their current record-keeping systems.

 

GREENHOUSE GAS REPORTING RULE PROBLEMATIC FOR AGRICULTURE

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to require livestock agriculture to report manure-related greenhouse gas emissions is not well thought out and could increase environmental problems, according to NPPC. In comments on the plan submitted June 9, NPPC applauded EPA’s efforts to address global climate change and provide leadership in protecting the environment. But the organization said requiring livestock producers to report manure-related emissions will add costs to pork operations while basically duplicating information EPA already compiles. The group said EPA should step back and let the Agriculture Department take the lead in attempting to reduce greenhouse gases coming from farms and ranches. Congress is considering climate change legislation that, among other things, would set a limit, or cap, on the amount of greenhouse gases that specific large emitters such as energy utilities could release to the atmosphere. Each unit of greenhouse gas an emitter is allowed to release under its cap is called a credit, which may be bought and sold. Those able to release less gas than they are allowed under their cap may sell credits; those over it will need to buy credits or reduce their energy production. In March, EPA proposed to require businesses, including livestock operations, to report emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide under the Clean Air Act. Those emitting at least 25,000 metric tons of gas annually would be affected under the plan. EPA estimated this would be only 40 to 50 livestock operations nationwide and that compliance costs would be only $900 per facility. NPPC questioned those numbers. In its comments, NPPC offered a number of reasons why EPA’s mandatory emissions reporting program is not appropriate for hog farms and needs to be revised. Among them:

-Relying on the Clean Air Act to address climate change will steer pork producers toward actions that will increase emissions and could cause additional environmental problems. Additional reporting requirements, for example, are a disincentive to installing manure lagoon covers and manure digesters that can capture methane gas and convert it to electricity.

-The Agriculture Department is better equipped than EPA to administer a greenhouse gas program for livestock producers. It has the technical expertise and institutional resources, along with a track record for working with farmers on measuring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Also, USDA has the producer protections required to assure widespread participation in any greenhouse gas reduction program.

-EPA’s proposal exempts from reporting requirements greenhouse gas emissions from natural processes such as from animals’ digestive systems. But it doesn’t exempt manure decomposition—also a natural process—even though it accounts for only a small portion of total livestock-related greenhouse gas emissions.

-EPA failed to adequately describe which operations are subject to mandatory reporting. Conflicting definitions of “facilities” and “manure management systems” leave in doubt who is covered under the regulation and who is not.

-While EPA estimated that farms with at least 73,000 hogs will be required to report emissions, it did not explain how it arrived at this number. NPPC, working with industry and university scientists, has been unable to duplicate it.

-The costs of the recordkeeping and reporting requirements under the rule are underestimated. EPA’s estimate of $900 to conduct tests and do emissions calculations bears little relation to the actual costs hog farmers will incur to comply with the rule.

[To read NPPC’s comments, click here [[[npppcccc link]]]]].]

 

CAP-AND-TRADE PROGRAM BETTER THAN CARBON TAX, SAYS NPPC

A cap-and-trade program such as the one that soon will be before the House of Representatives is preferable to a carbon tax for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but added costs associated with climate change legislation remain a serious concern of America’s pork producers, NPPC said in written testimony submitted yesterday. The organization told the House Agriculture Committee that a cap-and-trade program is likely to achieve greater and more sustainable emissions reductions—and do it for less—than a straight tax on greenhouse gas emissions. This is because cap and trade gives businesses flexibility to choose the lowest-cost emissions abatement method while also providing incentives for finding additional ways to reduce and offset greenhouse gas emissions. The agriculture panel June 11 held a hearing on H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, which recently was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The climate change legislation, among other things, would set a limit, or cap, on the amount of greenhouse gases that specific large emitters such as energy utilities could release to the atmosphere. Each unit of greenhouse gas an emitter is allowed to release under its cap is called a credit, which may be bought and sold. Those able to release less gas than they are allowed under their cap may sell credits; those over it will need to buy credits or reduce their energy production. In addition, uncapped sectors may sell offset credits for adopting practices that reduce emissions. H.R. 2454 treats agriculture as an uncapped sector, an approach endorsed by NPPC. One such practice in livestock agriculture is installation of a digester to capture methane gas from manure and convert it to electricity. NPPC also asked that the bill include a list of agricultural projects and practices likely to qualify for offset credits, that those producers who adopted such practices in the past be eligible for credits and that the U.S. Department of Agriculture – not the Environmental Protection Agency – design and oversee the agricultural offsets program. NPPC anticipates increased energy and input costs of at least 20 percent under climate change legislation, and it doesn’t think revenues from the sale of carbon offset credits will balance out that increase. This remains a serious concern of pork producers, given the industry’s bleak economic outlook. NPPC will continue to monitor the legislation as it moves through Congress. [To read NPPC’s testimony, click here.]

 

FUNDS FOR ANIMAL ID SYSTEM COULD BE ELIMINATED

The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee yesterday voted to eliminate in the fiscal 2010 agriculture funding bill money for USDA’s National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Panel Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., has been critical of USDA, which has been trying to implement an animal ID program since 2004. Only about one-third of animal premises in the country have been registered. NPPC, which supports a mandatory NAIS for all relevant species, and the National Pork Board have registered more than 80 percent of swine premises. The NAIS would allow animal health officials to trace back an animal to its farm of origin within 48 hours. The appropriations bill is scheduled to be considered by the full House Agriculture Committee next week.

 

COUNTRIES CONTINUE BANS ON U.S. PORK IMPORTS

Twelve countries, including China and Russia, are continuing to ban some or all imports of U.S. pork in the wake of the H1N1 flu outbreak; South Korea has a ban only on imports of live U.S. hogs. Russia’s ban applies only to pork from Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. Kazakhstan’s ban covers California, Kansas and Texas; Kyrgyzstan’s applies to Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Kansas and Texas; and Uzbekistan’s to Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. NPPC is continuing to press the Obama administration to urge U.S. trading partners to lift their unwarranted restrictions on U.S. pork. Last week in a meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, USTR Ambassador Ron Kirk asked Russia to lift its ban on U.S. pork.

 

DEPUTY UNDERSECRETARY FOR USDA MARKETING AND REGULATORY PROGRAMS NAMED

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack last week named Ann Wright as Deputy Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. Wright most recently served as senior policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on issues before the Senate Agriculture Committee. Prior to joining Reid’s staff, she was a policy analyst for Consumers Union on energy and trade issues and worked with farmers and non-profit organizations at the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in Washington, D.C. Wright previously served as a policy adviser on agriculture issues for Sens. Paul Simon, D-Ill. and Paul Wellstone, D-Minn. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Illinois State University. Marketing and Regulatory Programs facilitates domestic and international marketing of U.S. agricultural products and ensures the health and care of animals and plants. The agency also actively participates in setting national and international standards.

 

WEB SITE GIVES REAL TRUTH ABOUT FOOD ANIMAL PRODUCTION

A group of meat and poultry organizations, including NPPC, this week launched a Web site –www.safefoodinc.org – to present the facts about food animal production in America and to counter the falsehoods proffered in the “movie” Food Inc., which opens in theaters today. Featuring Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” who advocates a return to the farms of the 1950s, and co-produced by Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation,” in which he charges McDonald’s with making kids fat, Food Inc. attempts to blame all of society’s ills on today’s modern agricultural system.

 

WORLD PORK EXPO A SUCCESS DESPITE TOUGH TIMES FOR PORK INDUSTRY

Despite tough economic times for the pork industry, thousands of producers and allied industry exhibitors gathered last week for NPPC’s 21st annual World Pork Expo at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. While attendance numbers, estimated at 14,625, were down from 2008, the lag was expected and was, in part, due to the H1N1 virus outbreak’s effect on international travel. According to many exhibitors, those pork producers who did attend were serious shoppers, looking forward to doing business when profitability changes course. The fact that Friday’s gate numbers were nearly double those typically experienced when the final day fell on Saturday, the event’s switch to a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday format was seen as a positive for the attendees and exhibitors. Next year’s World Pork Expo will be held June 9-11, 2010, at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. For more information or to reserve exhibit space, visit www.worldpork.org.

 

WHAT’S AHEAD

 

CONGRESS SET TO ALLOCATE FUNDS FOR ANIMAL DISEASE SURVEILLANCE

A Senate-House conference committee next week is expected to approve for fiscal 2009 a supplemental agricultural appropriations bill that includes $100 million for animal disease surveillance. In a June 1 letter to the Democrat and Republican leaders of the Senate and House appropriations committees, who also are members of the conference panel that is reconciling differences in the supplemental legislation, NPPC urged inclusion of funds to improve the nation’s system for monitoring and tracking animal diseases. There has been heightened attention on animal disease surveillance in the wake of the H1N1 flu outbreak.