For the Week Ending June 19, 2009

June 19, 2009

Washington, June 19, 2009 


NPPC Wednesday successfully blocked from food-safety legislation new on-farm regulation of pork operations, which already are overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state agencies. The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved language in the “Food Safety and Enhancement Act of 2009,” H.R. 2749, that exempts livestock and poultry farms from a provision that expands the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authority over food producers. It would allow FDA to conduct on-farm inspections, quarantine geographic areas over food-safety problems, create a tracing system for all food and require additional records to be kept. The provision will apply to the grain side of diversified livestock and grain operations. NPPC pointed out that USDA already can quarantine animals when a state asks it to for animal health reasons, and it has an animal identification system that can trace back an animal to its farm of origin. NPPC also noted that farmers keep records according to state laws and industry programs and that complying with FDA record-keeping requirements would necessitate them overhauling their current record-keeping systems. What remains unclear, said NPPC, is whether the bill, for example, would allow FDA to conduct an on-farm inspection of or quarantine the livestock side of a diversified operation that has a food-safety issue with the grain side of its business. H.R. 2749, which the energy committee approved by voice vote, still must be considered by the full House; the Senate has a separate food-safety bill. NPPC, which supports strengthening the U.S. food-safety system, will continue to work with congressional lawmakers to resolve other areas of concern with food-safety legislation. During consideration of the House bill, Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-Ill., offered an amendment to ban the use in livestock of certain antibiotics. Although the amendment was withdrawn, the move could be a harbinger of future efforts to include an antibiotics ban in legislation. NPPC opposes restrictions on animal health products.



In a letter sent yesterday to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Ranking Member Frank Lucas, R-Okla., NPPC indicated its opposition to climate change legislation, which it said will raise the cost of pork production. The “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009,” H.R. 2454, could come up for a vote in the House of Representatives next week. Among other things, the bill would set a limit, or cap, on the amount of greenhouse gases that specific large industries such as energy utilities could release to the atmosphere. A business that has an emissions amount that falls below its cap could sell the unused amount up to the cap as offset credits; one that exceeds its cap would need to buy credits or reduce its emissions. In addition, uncapped sectors could sell offset credits for adopting practices and technologies that reduce emissions. H.R. 2454 treats agriculture as an uncapped sector. “America’s pork producers are intensely concerned over any policy proposals that will further raise the cost of production,” said NPPC. “In particular, producers fear the impact that H.R. 2454 will have on the cost of electricity, diesel fuel, grain, propane, animal health products, fertilizer, chemicals, farm equipment and materials such as steel and concrete that are necessary for the continued operations of their farms and well-being of their animals. Pork producers are already losing money for every pig sold – currently about $30 per hog – and any additional costs will drive them deeper and more firmly into financial despair.” NPPC anticipates an increase in energy and input costs of more than 20 percent under the proposed climate change legislation, and it doesn’t believe that revenues from the sale of greenhouse gas offset credits will balance that increase. In addition, the organization is wary of the impact the legislation would have on pork producers’ ability to compete fairly in world export markets.



If Congress insists on passing a climate change bill, said NPPC in its June 18 letter to House Agriculture Committee leaders Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Frank Lucas, R-Okla., a cap-and-trade system, such as the one included in the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009,” H.R. 2454, would be better than a carbon tax or strict command-and-control provisions. Also, said NPPC, a number of areas in H.R. 2454 must be improved before the organization could support it, including that the bill designate the U.S. Department of Agriculture, rather than the Environmental Protection Agency, as the lead agency on the design and implementation of the agricultural greenhouse gas offset credits program and on the development of any regulations affecting livestock producers. The bill also needs to more clearly address and account for the advances that livestock producers already have made in reducing their carbon footprint. NPPC pointed out that since 1990 production agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions have increased only 3.5 percent while U.S. meat production has increased 40 percent; since 1948, manure generated by U.S. meat-producing animals has been reduced 25 percent while production of meat has increased 700 percent.



The House Appropriations Committee yesterday approved the fiscal 2010 agriculture spending bill, which contains no money for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Identification System (NAIS). Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who is chairwoman of the committee’s agriculture subcommittee and who has been critical of USDA’s efforts on the NAIS, “zeroed out” funding for the program, which would allow animal health officials to trace back an animal to its farm of origin within 48 hours. USDA has been trying to implement an animal ID program since 2004, but only about one-third of animal premises in the country have been registered. (Premises registration is a key component of an ID system.) 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 fiscal ’10 agriculture appropriations measure also does not include funds for a National Trichinae Certification Program, on which NPPC has worked for more than 13 years with U.S. and international agencies. The program would allay concerns of U.S. trading partners about the safety of U.S. pork and help boost U.S. pork exports. NPPC was able to get funding for the program included in President Obama’s fiscal 2010 budget, but House appropriators chose not to included money for it. NPPC will be working to get funding for the trichinae program and the NAIS included in the Senate agriculture appropriations bill, which is expected to be considered in early July.



Ukraine is the latest country to remove a ban on U.S. pork and pork products prompted by the H1N1 flu outbreak. Ukraine, which lifted its ban effective June 15, was the third largest export market behind Russia and China with a ban, with 2008 exports valued at more than $28 million. At the height of the H1N1 outbreak, at least 27 countries were banning U.S. pork and pork products. Today, there are 10 countries banning U.S. pork, with several counties, including Russia, only banning it from specific states. NPPC has been working with the Obama administration to convince U.S. trading partners to remove their bans on U.S. pork and pork products. Studies, including one from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, have proved that the H1N1 virus is not transmissible in pork meat from infected pigs. The information has been shared with U.S. trading partners.



In a recent letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., asked the agency to “promptly” remove all references to “swine flu” in TSA publications and placards. Foster sent his letter to TSA Acting Administrator Gale Rossides in response to signs with headlines reading “Swine Flu Warning” posted in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. He pointed out that “this irresponsible use of the name ‘swine flu’ continues to occur, and as a result, pork producers across the country have been directly and negatively impacted.” Foster also noted that, “according to the scientific community, there is no basis for calling the [H1N1] virus ‘swine flu.’” According to an NPPC source, similar TSA warning signs were posted in the airport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.



USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack this week appointed John Ferrell as Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. Ferrell will help establish policies that facilitate the domestic and international marketing of U.S. agricultural products, ensure the health and care of animals and plants and participate in setting national and international standards. Ferrell most recently served as Majority Professional Staff to Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. He provided congressional oversight on implementation of the 2002 Farm Bill and contributed to the development of the 2008 Farm Bill. As a congressional staff member, Ferrell worked to facilitate new market initiatives and to develop new market opportunities for direct producer-to-consumer initiatives and to increase data, research and transition assistance to organic farmers. Ferrell earned bachelor’s degrees in agricultural science and horticulture from Northwest Missouri State University and a master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia.



Bryan Humphreys has been hired by NPPC as its director of grassroots, overseeing the Legislative Education Action Development Resource (LEADR) program and the Public Policy Leadership Institute (PPLI). Humphreys most recently served as a state party political field director and has worked on election campaigns in Iowa, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. A 2005 graduate of Iowa State University, Humphreys grew up on a crop and livestock operation in southeast Iowa.





NPPC and a coalition of agriculture and business organizations will be urging the Senate Appropriations Committee not to include in its fiscal 2010 agriculture spending bill language that bans Chinese poultry products from entering the United States now that the House Appropriations Committee has passed a fiscal 2010 agricultural appropriations bill that does just that. The House measure approved yesterday contains language – first put in the fiscal 2006 Agriculture Appropriation Act – that prohibits the U.S. Department of Agriculture from using any funds to establish or implement a rule allowing Chinese poultry products to be imported into the United States. China has used the ban as an excuse to restrict the importation of U.S. products, including pork. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., offered an amendment to strike the restrictive language then asked for the rider to be withdrawn. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., chairwoman of the Appropriation Committee’s agriculture subcommittee, insisted that the ban stay in the fiscal ’10 bill, citing concerns over the safety of Chinese poultry and the methodology used by USDA to determine if the imports are safe. In a June 5 letter to DeLauro, NPPC and the coalition also expressed concerns with the safety of meat and poultry products from China but pointed out that the language included in the appropriations bill even prohibits USDA from conducting risk assessments of Chinese processing plants to determine whether or not they meet U.S. food-safety standards.