For the Week Ending March 19, 2021

March 19, 2021

HOUSE PASSES BILL ADDRESSING AGRICULTURE LABOR SHORTAGE
By a 247 to 174 vote, the U.S. House on Thursday passed legislation that would reform the H-2A visa program to address the agricultural labor shortage. Among other provisions, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act would amend the H-2A program to allow a capped number of visas for farmworkers to work year-round. In a Hogs on the Hill blog post, NPPC President Jen Sorenson said the bill’s passage “jump-starts conversation on this critical issue.” The legislation “helps to address much-needed labor reform, but changes are necessary to meet the needs of the agriculture industry. NPPC looks forward to working with Congress on efforts that both opens the H-2A program to year-round labor without a cap and provides legal status for agricultural workers already in the country,” she added. Visa reform is needed to ensure that U.S. livestock agriculture can compete globally and continue to provide safe and affordable pork to Americans and consumers worldwide. Read Sorenson’s full blog post here

SENATE APPROVES TAI AS NEXT U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE 
By a 98-0 vote on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate approved Katherine Tai as next U.S. Trade Representative. During her confirmation hearing last month, she vowed to implement former President Trump’s trade deal with China, but also didn’t indicate a rush to finalize a U.S.-U.K. trade deal, or restart negotiations on rejoining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying she would need to review current negotiations. In an interview with Agri Pulse this week, NPPC Vice President and Counsel, Global Government Affairs Nick Giordano said near-term trade priorities include expanding market access in the Philippines and Vietnam, major pork-consuming nations dealing with African swine fever outbreaks in their domestic herds. In January, NPPC joined more than 100 national and state farm groups in sending a letter to Congress in support of Tai’s nomination.  

HOUSE PASSES BILL EXTENDING PPP APPLICATION DEADLINE
On Tuesday, the U.S. House overwhelmingly passed H.R. 1799, which extends the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) application deadline to May 31, and the overall program until June 30. The current PPP application deadline is March 31. Given the significant bipartisan support for the measure in the House, the bill is likely to pass the Senate. NPPC continues to advocate to ensure all hog farmers can access the program and supports the legislation. 

USDA SEEKING PUBLIC INPUT ON CLIMATE SOLUTIONS
USDA is seeking public input on a climate-smart agriculture and forestry strategy, the agency announced this week. The effort is part of President Biden’s January executive order addressing climate change, which acknowledged that America’s farmers and ranchers have an important role to play in combating the climate crisis. Specifically, “We want your ideas on how to position the agriculture and forestry sectors to be leaders on climate smart practices to mitigate climate change,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This includes making the most of USDA programs, developing new USDA-led climate strategies, strengthening existing markets and developing new markets that generate income,” he added. Comments are due by April 29. NPPC plans to submit comments, highlighting how U.S. pork producers have been at the forefront of environmental stewardship for more than five decades. Read more here

U.S., CANADA ESTABLISH PROTOCOLS TO MINIMIZE TRADE DISRUPTION IN CASE OF FERAL SWINE ASF OUTBREAK 
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has teamed up with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to develop a protocol to ensure bilateral trade will continue if African swine fever is detected in either country, while still absent from domestic swine, the agency announced this week. ASF is an animal disease affecting only pigs and with no human health or food safety risks. As APHIS explained, this would protect swine populations in both countries during an outbreak, while minimizing impacts on the trade of live swine, swine products and other swine commodities. Upon ASF detection, all pork-related trade between both countries would halt, and according to protocols, trade would resume in three, progressive phases. NPPC has been advocating for this bilateral agreement, to ensure both countries have policies and procedures in place in the event of an ASF outbreak. To learn more, visit here.  

AG GROUPS URGE USDA TO CONTINUE ‘STRONG SUPPORT’ FOR INTERNATIONAL FOOD SAFETY COMMISSION
NPPC joined more than 40 other agriculture groups on Wednesday in sending a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging “strong support for continued U.S. leadership of and engagement with the Codex Alimentarius Commission.” Codex sets international standards for food safety. “It is Codex’s commitment to science-based decision making, risk assessment, transparency and participation by all relevant stakeholders that makes it exceptional and critical to U.S. food and agricultural producers,” the groups wrote. A copy of the letter is available here.   

NPPC URGES FDA TO REVISE ANTIMICROBIAL CONCEPT PAPER
On Monday, NPPC submitted comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on a concept paper that aims to rank antimicrobials for their importance to human health. Pork producers work with their veterinarians to reduce the need to use antimicrobials and, when needed, to administer them in a responsible manner, as prescribed in the industry’s Pork Quality Assurance Program. “The complexity of antimicrobial stewardship is unnecessarily compounded by the addition of tiers and groups,” in addition to classifying drugs as highly or critically important, NPPC wrote. NPPC had a number of other concerns with the concept paper. A copy of NPPC’s full comments is available here.