For the Week Ending September 10, 2021

September 10, 2021

NPPC ASKS CONGRESS TO ADDRESS AG LABOR SHORTAGE IN RECONCILIATION BILL
With a scheduled vote in the U.S. House set for Monday, NPPC this week called on Congress to include in a budget reconciliation bill language to expand the existing H-2A visa to year-round agricultural workers. Like many sectors of the economy, the U.S. pork industry is faced with a severe labor shortage. But even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry was having trouble filling jobs, a situation generally attributable to urbanization and an aging rural population. The tight labor market has led the pork sector to rely more on foreign-born workers. NPPC is urging congressional lawmakers to open the current H-2A temporary and seasonal worker visa program to year-round labor, without a limit on the annual number of visas, and to provide legal status for agricultural workers already in the country. Legislation approved earlier this year by the House would expand the H-2A program to year-round workers but cap the number of visas that can be issued each year. In July, NPPC rolled out a campaign, “Year-Round Pork Needs Year-Round Workers,” to highlight the vital role foreign-born workers play in the U.S. pork industry and the critical need for comprehensive labor reform to address agriculture’s labor shortage. For more information on the labor issue, click here.

NPPC, OTHER GROUPS HIGHLIGHT PROBLEMS WITH CAPITAL GAINS PROPOSALS
NPPC, business groups and other agricultural associations are urging congressional lawmakers to oppose a potential provision of the budget reconciliation bill that would eliminate for inherited assets the stepped-up basis and consider the transfer of wealth at death as a capital gains tax event. The Family Business Estate Tax Coalition this week sent a letter to the Senate and House tax-writing committees, asking that they not add such language to the $3.5 billion tax and spending legislation. Without step-up in basis – a rule that has been part of the Internal Revenue Code since 1954 – inherited assets would be subject to capital gains taxes on the difference between the original (and usually significantly lower) price and the value when the assets are passed to an heir or heirs. That, according to a study conducted by Ernst & Young, would cause a loss of more than 40,000 jobs a year and reduce GDP by $50 billion over 10 years.

STUDY FINDS NO GAPS IN PORK INDUSTRY EFFORTS TO PREVENT ASF’S SPREAD
A year-long study to identify U.S. pork industry gaps in biosecurity defenses against foreign animal diseases, funded by the Pork Checkoff and the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC), found no major areas have been overlooked in efforts to prevent the introduction of African swine fever (ASF) to the United States. With ASF confirmed in the Dominican Republic, the first time it has been in the Western Hemisphere in 40 years, the study provides reassurance that the U.S. pork industry and federal agencies have identified the major routes of potential domestic introduction. The study, conducted by EpiX Analytics LLC, reinforced the importance of continued on-farm biosecurity diligence for known pathways and identified feed and feed ingredient imports risks as a critical opportunity to bolster defenses against ASF. The study’s findings were presented to the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, the National Pork Board – which administers the checkoff – NPPC and SHIC, which collectively are working to prevent ASF and other foreign animal diseases from reaching domestic swine herds. For more on the study’s findings, click here.

USDA TO MAKE $700 MILLION IN COVID GRANTS AVAILABLE TO SMALL PRODUCERS
USDA this week announced it will soon take applications for new COVID grant programs for small commodity producers and processors. The Pandemic Response and Safety grant program and the Seafood Processors Pandemic Response and Safety block grant program will make available $700 million to support agricultural stakeholders who haven’t yet received substantial federal financial assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Small businesses in certain commodity areas, including small-scale specialty crop producers and processors, shellfish, aquaculture and other select producers, meat and other processors, distributors, farmers markets, seafood facilities and processing vessels will be eligible for the funds. Eligible entities may click here for complete information on the program, including how to obtain a free-of-charge DUNS number, which is needed to submit an application.

BIDEN TO MANDATE COVID VACCINATIONS FOR MOST PRIVATE EMPLOYEES
President Biden Thursday announced his intent to direct the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop rules requiring any business with more than 100 employees to require their workers to be vaccinated against the Coronavirus or implement a weekly testing policy. Estimates show that such a rule would cover roughly two-thirds of all American workers. The announcement comes after the administration recently announced a vaccine mandate for all federal employees, with no testing option. A rule is expected to be issued in October. To read the president’s Thursday remarks, click here.

WEBINARS ON ASF TO BE HELD NEXT WEEK
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University and the Iowa Pork Producers Association next Friday will host a webinar on African swine fever (ASF). To register for the Sept. 17 webinar, which will look at next steps in the fight against ASF, click here. Also, USDA’s Animal and Health Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) will hold webinars each day of its ASF Action Week Sept. 13-17 to highlight prevention and preparedness efforts. To register or learn more about those webinars, click here. For additional information on ASF biosecurity, visit here.