Capital Update – For the Week Ending April 5, 2024

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In this week’s National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) Friday recap: NPPC’s Stevermer shares stage with Agriculture Sec. Vilsack in USDA roundtable; NPPC helps set export promotion priorities for USMEF; NPPC weighs in on oversight of emerging biotechnology; NPPC’s Johnson participates in food policy conference; and National Trade Estimate Report details barriers to U.S. exports. Take a deeper dive below.

NPPC’s Stevermer Shares Stage with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in USDA Roundtable

What happened: NPPC President Lori Stevermer, a pork producer from Minnesota, on Wednesday participated in a roundtable discussion on investing in America’s rural prosperity hosted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Mankato, Minnesota.

Vilsack announced new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) investments to help agricultural producers advance conservation and climate-smart practices. USDA previously implemented farm programs under the Inflation Reduction Act, the American Rescue Plan Act, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

NPPC’s take: NPPC backs USDA’s efforts to support U.S. farmers and rural America. Among the agency’s programs that have benefitted pork producers Stevermer pointed out that:

  • USDA purchased about $105 million in additional pork products for its various food programs over the past year.
  • Vilsack defended producers against the marketplace chaos triggered by California’s Proposition 12, which bans the sale of pork produced anywhere that doesn’t meet the state’s animal housing standards, and supports a congressional fix to it.
  • USDA has worked on market access issues, including ensuring China lives up to its international commitments to science-based standards.
  • USDA has engaged on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed permitting guidelines for meatpacking plants, which, if adopted as written, could shut down 76 or more facilities.
  • USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has worked with the U.S. pork industry to ensure sufficient harvest capacity at packing plants, including implementing a pilot program that allows faster processing line speeds at facilities.

Why it matters: Vilsack reiterated his previous comments on the challenges posed by Proposition 12. During Wednesday’s roundtable, Stevermer said to Vilsack, “Lending your voice to that hopefully will make Congress pay attention and come up with a federal solution through the farm bill.” As NPPC has underscored, there is bipartisan support in Washington to find a solution, and the NPPC continues to push for a fix in the farm bill.

NPPC's Stevermer at USDA Roundtable

Stevermer (left) speaks with Secretary Vilsack (center, at microphone) in Mankato, Minnesota.

NPPC Helps Set Export Promotion Priorities for USMEF

What happened: Former NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Ohio, NPPC Vice President of International Affairs Maria C. Zieba, and Cole Spain, NPPC manager of international affairs attended the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Unified Export Strategy Meeting in Denver, Colorado. (Heimerl also serves on the USMEF board, which is chaired by former NPPC President Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Minnesota.)

The meeting included a review of USMEF’s 2023 promotional activities in each U.S. export market, including its efforts to promote U.S. pork. Attendees also discussed market priorities for 2025, giving USMEF guidance and providing direction for its 2025 budgeting allocations.

Why it matters: Responsible for developing international markets, USMEF represents beef and veal producers, pork producers, lamb producers, packers, processors, oilseeds producers, feed grains producers, farm organizations, and supply and service organizations. Its mission is to “increase the value and profit opportunities for the U.S. beef, pork, and lamb industries by enhancing demand in export markets through a coordinated and collaborative partnership of all stakeholders.”

NPPC Weighs In On Oversight of Emerging Biotechnology

What happened: NPPC submitted comments in an online survey to the National Security Commission on Emerging Biotechnology (NSCEB) about the pork industry’s concerns over the current oversight system for livestock biotechnology products and gave its opinion on the ideal system. The NSCEB is gathering recommendations for setting up a system of oversight for products produced with biotechnology, including gene editing.

Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has regulatory authority over livestock biotechnology despite its lack of expertise with livestock. Other concerns with the agency’s oversight cited by NPPC were: the approval time for new biotechnologies, the narrow scope of the approval itself, and the cost. For example, it took one agricultural research company three years and $300,000 to gain approval for five genetically engineered swine.

NPPC suggested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has oversight of genetic technologies in plants and oversees the livestock industry, could regulate biotechnology under the Animal Health Protection Act, the Federal Meat Inspection Act, and the Poultry Products Inspection Act.

NPPC’s take: NPPC supports giving regulatory authority over biotechnology in livestock to USDA. The current regulatory environment for decades has been a barrier to innovation, development, and adoption of biotechnology in food animal production.

Why it matters: U.S. pork producers see the potential of biotechnology to address animal health issues, such as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), as well as to assist the industry in improving areas, such as animal well-being, responsible antibiotic use, and sustainability.

NPPC’s Johnson Participates in National Food Policy Conference

What happened: Dr. Ashley Johnson, NPPC director of food policy, attended the Consumer Federation of America’s National Food Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. The two-day conference was a collaboration among consumer advocates, the food industry, and the government, serving as a key national gathering for those interested in agriculture, food, and nutrition policy.

Johnson participated in breakout sessions discussing the effects of climate change on food safety, regulations on food ingredients, foodborne illness attributed to fresh produce, and trends of global food trade. She also debated issues in the dietary guidelines, including the consumption of ultra-processed foods and the need to maintain a healthy diet that includes meat protein. Lastly, Johnson advocated for pork and the inclusion of high-quality meat protein in school meal programs.

Why it matters: The CFA’s 47th annual policy conference explored important food issues facing consumers and the food industry, including school meals, ultra-processed foods, reorganizing the FDA’s food division, food politics, and harmonizing nutrition and agricultural policy. Meetings such as these are important for NPPC to continue to advocate for pork and high-quality meat protein in American diets.

National Trade Estimate Report Details Barriers to U.S. Exports

What happened: The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released the 2023 National Trade Estimate Report (NTE) on Foreign Trade Barriers, which details significant barriers to U.S. exports of goods and services, U.S. foreign direct investment, and U.S. electronic commerce in important U.S. export markets.

Agricultural trade barriers highlighted in the report include:

  • Burdensome food facility registration requirements.
  • Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures that aren’t based on science.
  • Import licensing requirements and non-transparent import licensing administration.
  • Technical barriers, such as unnecessarily restrictive or discriminatory standards, labeling requirements, or technical regulations.
  • Lack of adherence to international science- and risk-based standards.

Examples cited in the report include Indonesia’s facility registration requirements for dairy, meat, and rendered products; Mexico’s policies on products of agricultural biotechnology; and the EU’s non-science-based policies affecting innovative crop protection technologies; and China’s lack of adherence to international science-and risk-based standards.

NPPC’s take: NPPC continues to advocate for comprehensive trade agreements that eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers to U.S. pork exports. NPPC will submit comments on the report, which will open later this year. Learn more about NPPC’s international trade priorities for the U.S. pork industry.

Why it matters: Published annually since 1985, the NTE looks at barriers in 64 markets to which 99% of U.S. goods and 66% of U.S. services are exported. Many of those export markets are vital to U.S. agriculture and the overall U.S. economy, supporting about 1 million U.S. jobs. For U.S. pork producers, pork exports contribute significantly to their bottom line. Last year, producers exported a record $8.2 billion of products to more than 100 foreign destinations.