For the Week Ending May 15, 2009

May 15, 2009

Washington, May 15, 2009 


Mexico’s agriculture department Thursday said the influenza strain that now has infected almost 4,300 people in 33 countries did not originate from hogs at a Smithfield Foods operation that had been singled out by some, including critics of modern pork production, as the source of the A-H1N1 flu virus. Test results released by the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, Ranching, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) confirmed that the novel A-H1N1 virus was not in pigs at the Granjas Carroll de México farm in Veracruz. The pigs also tested negative for other viruses. While the news was welcomed by NPPC, the organization said the damage to the U.S. pork industry from mislabeling the strain “swine” flu has been done. The first day the flu outbreak received wide media coverage – April 24 – pork producers were losing $10.91 per pig. After two weeks of reporting on the “swine” flu, pork prices fell dramatically, with producers losing an average of $20.60 per pig, or nearly $8.4 million a day. Pork prices dropped because of a dip in domestic demand as well as import bans on U.S. pork imposed by a number of U.S. trading partners. After initial reports of the flu outbreak, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said: “This [flu] virus is different, very different from that found in pigs.” On April 26, the World Organization for Animal Health said the H1N1 influenza never should have been named “swine” flu and that there was no justification for the imposition of trade restrictions, a position also taken by the World Trade Organization. NPPC and U.S. and world public-health and agriculture agencies repeatedly have pointed out that pork is safe to eat and handle and that flu viruses are not transmitted through food.



A dozen U.S. trading partners that had indicated they would ban U.S. pork imports because of the H1N1 flu outbreak, by today had reversed themselves. NPPC has been working closely with USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack and USTR Ambassador Ron Kirk to get countries to rescind their bans, which were put in place following widespread coverage of the H1N1 flu that much of the media referred to as “swine” flu. A handful of countries continue to impose bans on U.S. pork, most notably China, Russia and Ukraine. Russia’s ban applies only to 11 states, and the United States is able to fulfill all of that country’s demand for U.S. pork. NPPC is continuing to press the Obama administration to strongly urge U.S. trading partners to lift their bans on U.S. pork. The World Trade Organization recently stated that trade restrictions on U.S. pork because of the H1N1 flu are not justified.



Nick Giordano, NPPC vice president and international trade counsel, this week met with officials from the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representatives Office, the de facto Taiwanese embassy in Washington, D.C., to discuss Taiwan’s ban on U.S. pork from hogs given the feed additive ractopamine. China has a similar restriction. Widely used in U.S. pork production under the brand name Paylean to promote leaner meat, ractopamine was tested and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and has been accepted by 26 other countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines and South Korea. A ractopamine maximum residue level (MRL) is being considered by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which is part of the World Health Organization and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, but adoption of the MRL is looking doubtful because of objections – that are not grounded in science – from the European Union and China. Giordano’s recent meeting with Taiwanese officials follows one in Taiwan in March with high-ranking members of the Taipei government. Taiwan offered in August 27 an MRL for ractopamine to the World Trade Organization but withdrew it after its domestic pork industry – the largest sector of the country’s agriculture industry – strongly protested.



Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this week announced the appointment of Rayne Pegg as administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, which works to ensure a productive and competitive global and domestic marketplace for U.S. agricultural products. Pegg most recently served as the Deputy Secretary of Legislation and Policy for the California Department of Food and Agriculture. As an advocate with the California Farm Bureau Federation, Pegg analyzed California agriculture’s foreign market opportunities and competition and participated in the World Trade Organization and U.S.-Korea FTA negotiations. She worked with USDA to resolve phytosanitary barriers that restrict the movement of California products to foreign and domestic markets. In addition, Pegg previously was appointed to the USDA, Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee on Fruits and Vegetables. She was also a principle in the creation of the California Leafy Green Product Handler Marketing Agreement, which was established in response to the spinach E. coli outbreak in 2006. Pegg earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.




The 21st annual World Pork Expo will be held June 3-5 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines. As the largest pork-industry trade show and exhibition in the world, the expo draws more than 30,000 pork producers, exhibitors and visitors from across the country and around the globe. For more information, visit the World Pork Expo Web site at