For the Week Ending March 26, 2021

March 26, 2021

USDA UNVEILS NEW ‘PANDEMIC ASSISTANCE FOR PRODUCERS’
USDA announced on Wednesday its new “USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers” initiative, including details on the resumption of some Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) programs. CFAP provides direct payments to farmers impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Among details, USDA will reopen sign-up for CFAP 2 for at least 60 days, beginning on April 5; additional CFAP 1 payments for swine producers and contract growers remain on hold and are likely to require modification to the regulation; the agency will dedicate at least $6 billion to provide assistance for, among others, euthanized livestock and poultry and improving the resilience of the food supply chain; and providing $20 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to improve and maintain animal disease prevention and response capacity, including the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. For further details, visit here.  

AG WORKFORCE COALITION URGES SENATE TO ADDRESS LABOR REFORM
The Agriculture Workforce Coalition, which includes NPPC, sent a letter Monday to Senate leadership, strongly urging passage of agriculture labor reform this session. “America’s farmers have faced an onslaught of challenges: the COVID-19 pandemic, catastrophic weather events, retaliatory tariffs in our top export markets, and falling commodity prices and farm income just to name a few. However, the labor shortage remains one of their greatest challenges, impacting farmers today and jeopardizing the future of American agriculture. We must address this workforce crisis threatening farms across the United States so our producers can continue to feed, clothe, and fuel our nation,” the coalition wrote.  “We implore the Senate to put forward its ideas and solutions to pass legislation in a bipartisan manner to address our agricultural workforce challenges,” the coalition added. Earlier this month, the U.S. House passed legislation to reform the H-2A visa program. In a recent “Hogs on the Hill” blog post, NPPC President Jen Sorenson said the bill’s passage “jump-starts conversation on this critical issue.” NPPC looks forward to working with Congress on efforts 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, she added.  

WHY NPPC IS SOUNDING THE ALARM ON IMPORTED RESCUE DOGS
Preventing African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases (FADs) from entering the United States is one of NPPC’s top priorities. While NPPC continues to work to ensure we have sufficient U.S. agriculture inspectors at our borders and ports, a looming, largely unknown FAD risk must be addressed to protect U.S. livestock and agriculture from FADs, NPPC Chief Veterinarian Dr. Liz Wagstrom wrote this week in a “Hogs on the Hill” blog. The concern is that rescue dogs are increasingly being imported from FAD-positive countries. While the dogs are not known to carry FADs, there is potential for bedding, crates or contamination of the dogs’ coats to serve as disease carriers. “If even one of these animals carried FAD into the country, it could put the U.S. swine herd and other livestock in jeopardy and have disastrous consequences for our nation’s agriculture sector,” she wrote. Read the full blog post here.   

USTR TAI TALKS TRADE PRIORITIES WITH INTERNATIONAL COUNTERPARTS 
In her first full week on the job, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai held official calls with a number of her international counterparts to discuss upcoming trade priorities. On Monday, for example, Tai spoke with UK Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss, discussing “her ongoing review of the U.S.-U.K. free trade agreement negotiations conducted under the previous administration,” USTR said in a statement. During her Senate confirmation hearing last month, Tai didn’t indicate a rush to finalize a U.S.-U.K. trade deal. Meanwhile, during the week, she also spoke with top trade officials in India, Japan, South Korea, Mexico and France, among other countries. With her Mexican counterpart, Tai discussed the importance of fully implementing the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), as well as agreeing to pursue a USMCA Free Trade Commission meeting with Canada in the near future. NPPC’s 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. 

SENATE PASSES BILL EXTENDING PPP APPLICATION DEADLINE
A week after passage in the U.S. House, the Senate on Thursday passed legislation 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. The White House is likely to shortly sign the bill into law. NPPC continues to advocate to ensure all hog farmers can access the program and supports the legislation. 

SENATE COMMITTEE APPROVES JANET MCCABE NOMINATION AS DEPUTY EPA ADMINISTRATOR 
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday approved the nomination of Janet McCabe to be deputy Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator. She joined EPA in November 2009 as principal deputy to the assistant administrator of the Office of Air and Radiation (OAR) and served as OAR’s acting assistant administrator from July 2013 through January 2017, where she oversaw the agency’s work on important issues for pork producers, including the review and evaluation of data collected under the National Air Emissions Monitoring Study (NAEMS). Previously, she had been air director at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. It’s unclear when the full Senate will vote on her nomination. Additionally, on Wednesday, the committee approved Brenda Mallory, nominated to chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality.  

NPPC OPENS REGISTRATION FOR 2021 WORLD PORK EXPO
Registration is now open for the 2021 World Pork Expo, NPPC announced this week. The event will be held June 9-11 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. “World Pork Expo plays an important role in an essential industry dedicated to the production of world’s most popular meat protein,” said NPPC President Jen Sorenson, communications director for Iowa Select Farms in West Des Moines, Iowa. Attendees, media and exhibitors can register by visiting the World Pork Expo website.