For the Week Ending March 18

March 18, 2022

OMNIBUS SPENDING BILL INCLUDED MANY PORK INDUSTRY PRIORITIES
The omnibus spending bill to keep the government operating through fiscal 2022 — approved by Congress last week and signed into law by President Biden this week — included nearly two dozen pork industry priority provisions and programs, with increased funding, that will benefit U.S. producers. A lot of the $25.1 billion for agriculture, rural development, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and related agencies goes to USDA programs that will help prevent and prepare for foreign animal disease outbreaks and fund agricultural research. (Click here for a comprehensive list of the 20 victories NPPC scored for the pork industry.)

SPOT MARKET HOG PANDEMIC PROGRAM ELIGIBILITY BROADENED
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) this week announced adjustments and updates to the Spot Market Hog Pandemic Program (SMHPP) that will broaden eligibility, capturing more hog sales. Initiated last year, the program made $50 million available to pork producers who sold hogs on the spot market from April 16 to Sept. 1, 2020. USDA identified negotiated hogs as a sector of the agricultural industry significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that was not adequately addressed by other pandemic relief programs and that experienced the greatest market price impacts of all hog purchase types. NPPC in January met with FSA staff to discuss the state of the program after payments were halted in late December because of issues with eligibility requirements and discrepancies among FSA offices. NPPC pushed for changes to SMHPP, which:

  • Make negotiated sales to meat lockers, intermediaries and other non-traditional hog buyers explicitly eligible, not just sales directly to a traditional packer.
  • Change the term “eligible hogs” to include those “suitable for slaughter.”
  • Require supporting documentation to be submitted upfront so USDA can work directly with applicants.
  • Extend the deadline for applying for the program to April 29. In late February, USDA extended a Feb. 25 deadline to April 15.

Producers who already have submitted applications may amend them. USDA will be contacting producers who have submitted applications, letting them know the program has changed and they may need to update their applications. Program payments will not be made until after the application deadline. Producers who received payments in error or in excess will need to refund FSA. (For more information on SMHPP, including the eligibility criteria, click here; for an application click here.)

U.S., U.K. TO BEGIN TALKS ON TRADE AND INVESTMENT AGREEMENT
While discussions on a U.S.-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (FTA) have been put on hold, the two countries agreed to begin talks next week on a trade and investment agreement. U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and U.K. Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan are set to meet in Baltimore March 21-22, with a second session in the coming months in the United Kingdom. The first Joint U.K.-U.S. Dialogues on the Future of Atlantic Trade will include senior representatives from government entities and business sectors. The two sides are seeking to boost trade between the countries, including by resolving the issue of U.S. duties on British steel and U.K. retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products. Tai and Trevelyan also are expected to discuss how the countries can work together on digital and green trade. NPPC has been pressing the White House to negotiate new FTAs, including with the United Kingdom, and has been a supporter of closer trade relations with the U.K. since that country began the process of leaving the European Union.

NPPC’S ZIEBA PARTICIPATES IN DISCUSSION ON U.S.-KOREA TRADE RELATIONS
NPPC Assistant Vice President of International Affairs Maria Zieba this week participated in a webinar looking at the past, present and future of U.S.-Korea trade relations. Hosted by the Washington International Trade Association on March 15, the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the U.S. Korea (KORUS) Free Trade Agreement, the virtual webinar featured South Korean Minister for Trade Yeo Han-koo, as well as Mark Lippert, the former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea. Zieba said the United States — and the U.S. pork industry — need new market access and permanent tariff reductions in more countries in Asia. NPPC was a leading agricultural voice in support of KORUS, which helped make South Korea a top-five destination for U.S. pork exports. The United States exported nearly $557 million of pork to the Asian nation last year. (Click here to watch the webinar.)

WHAT’S AHEAD

NATIONAL AG DAY SET FOR MARCH 22
National Ag Day will be celebrated March 22. Hosted by the Agriculture Council of America and sponsored by dozens of other agricultural groups, including NPPC, Ag Day this year will focus on “Growing a Climate for Tomorrow,” highlighting farmers’ efforts to protect the environment. Because of COVID restrictions, most of the Ag Day events in Washington, DC, will be virtual. The Celebration of Modern Agriculture on the National Mall, which runs March 21-22, will be live. (For more information, click here.)