Capital Update – For the Week Ending Feb. 17, 2023

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In this week’s National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) Friday recap: Farm Bill hearings, HDIA re-introduced, NPPC economic update, EPA’s proposal on rodenticides, WITA Conference, FDA’s food labeling update and nomination of new USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Take a deeper dive below.

2023 Farm Bill Corner

Farm Bill Listening Session Held in California

What happened: Congressman David Valadao (CA-22) hosted the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-15), and Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy (CA-20), for a Farm Bill Listening Session at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

Key topics discussed: House Speaker McCarthy stressed the importance of addressing the needs of specialty crop farms, including fruits, vegetables, nuts and horticulture, for research and market development funding.

The Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) funding was highlighted as being critical for U.S. growers to compete on a global level. FMD funding is used for the removal of trade impediments and the development of new markets for commodities.

Senate Committee Holds Farm Bill Hearing on Nutrition Programs

What happened: The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry hosted its third, in a series, of full committee Farm Bill hearing on Thursday, Feb. 16. This week’s hearing focused on nutrition programs and witnesses included the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, Stacy Dean, and USDA Administrator, Cindy Long.

The hearing was heavily influenced by the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) updated baseline projections. The CBO raised its cost estimate for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $93 billion over the next 10 years – or about 8.4% – due in part to expected benefit recalculations through the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP). Republicans focused heavily on the TFP update and the resulting budget increases, with Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) stating that the updated CBO baseline demonstrates flaws in the TFP.

Ranking Member Boozman’s press release on the CBO update can be found here, and House Agriculture Committee Chair GT Thompson’s statement is here.

Key topics discussed:

  • TFP updates
  • SNAP integrity, operations and costs
  • SNAP eligibility
  • School lunch programs
  • Other food assistance and nutrition programs

Upcoming Farm Bill full committee hearing dates:

  • March 1: conservation and forestry programs
  • March 16: United States Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, will testify

Hearing dates can change – stay up to date by checking the hearing calendar here.

HDIA Re-Introduced to Protect Animal and Public Health

What happened: Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Tina Smith (D-MN) reintroduced the Healthy Dog Importation Act (HDIA) to address current gaps and prioritize the prevention and preparedness of foreign animal diseases (FAD) from imported dogs. To ensure this bipartisan bill is enacted as a standalone piece of legislation, or as part of the 2023 Farm Bill, over 45 groups signed onto a letter of support.

Why it matters: In the absence of proper health requirements, imported dogs have been responsible for the introduction and transmission of diseases and pests into the U.S. There is a growing concern amongst producer groups that imported dogs, and even their crates and bedding, could transfer FADs, like African Swine Fever (ASF), that would devastate the U.S. livestock industry.

NPPC’s take: Importation of dogs from ASF-positive countries without proper regulatory and veterinary oversight could pose a threat to the U.S. swine herd. The HDIA addresses the current gaps in oversight of these imported animals and helps to shore up the nation’s defenses against FADs.

Learn more about NPPC’s position on foreign animal disease prevention and preparedness initiatives.

NPPC Economic Update Gives Snapshot of Current Pork Industry Opportunities and Challenges

What happened: NPPC released its latest pork industry Q1 economic update that summarizes key pork industry market indicators through January 2023.

Q1 takeaways include:

  • After declining 2.5% in 2022, USDA projects growth in pork production for 2023.
  • Retail pork prices increased by 1.5% from December 2021 to 2022.
  • The cost of raising pigs was a record high in 2022, increasing 21% from the previous year.
  • Labor market conditions and changing demographics are exacerbating the rural labor shortage.

What’s the word on the street: “The U.S. pork industry is a pillar of the U.S. economy, supporting jobs, sales and value-added activity throughout the pork supply chain,” said Lori Stevermer, NPPC Vice President and pork producer from Easton, Minnesota. “It is important to raise awareness of the economic contributions made by pork production and highlight the current economic and policy issues impacting producer success.”

If you want more: In addition to the quarterly update, NPPC released a national and 22 state-level economic reports last year. These reports highlight how the pork industry contributes at a grassroots level and illustrate the industry breadth in producing affordable, safe and nutritious pork for consumers worldwide.

To learn more about the impact of pork production on the U.S. economy, click here.

Read the Q1 Report

NPPC Leads Effort to Overturn EPA’s New Proposal on Rodenticides

What happened: EPA announced a proposal to overturn decades-long policies regulating farmers’ and ranchers’ use of rodenticides. The proposed changes would enhance current restrictions, create new certifications and trainings, add more requirements to labels, reclassify some products to restricted use pesticides and, if not the most important aspect, presents a major biosecurity risk to farms. A challenging, time-consuming and expensive proposal for rural and urban populations.

Why it matters: Rodenticide is an important part of the agriculture industry. Uncontrolled mice and rats have a detrimental effect on the environment as well as farms and ranches. Along with crop destruction, rodents transmit bacteria and viruses that infect and cause animal diseases. They also consume and spoil feed, which increases the environmental footprint of farms and food consumers. Fewer rodents mean less fuel, fertilizer and water needed to raise animals and crops, reducing a farm’s environmental footprint and lowering costs for farmers.

NPPC’s take: NPPC organized and is leading a coalition with eight other agricultural organizations calling on the EPA to withdraw its proposal. In regulatory comments to the EPA and an op-ed published in Agri-Pulse, the coalition highlighted that EPA’s choice to designate rodenticides as “Restricted Use Products” (RUPs) will undermine animal health and welfare, put food safety at risk, reduce environmental performance and increase economic losses for hard-working farmers.

NPPC and the coalition want to work with EPA and other stakeholders to create a sustainable rodenticide stewardship program that ensures animal health and welfare are protected, and safe and wholesome food is produced for consumers.

Learn more and engage: Check out the op-ed in Agri-Pulse and NPPC’s recent tweet on the topic. More information regarding EPA’s proposed changes can be found here.

Read Rodenticide Coalition Comments to EPA

NPPC Participates in the 2023 Washington International Trade Conference

What happened: NPPC’s Vice President of International Affairs, Maria C. Zieba, participated in the 2023 Washington International Trade Association’s (WITA) Conference in Washington, DC. Zieba introduced one of the event’s speakers, Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade matters. NPPC was a sponsor of the conference.

What was discussed: Senator Crapo talked about the need for more U.S. market access to countries around the globe and how free trade agreements (FTAs) are the best way to get such ingress. Conference attendees also heard from Angela Ellard, World Trade Organization Deputy Director-General, and U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade, Marisa Lago.

Why it matters: Trade and exports are critical and important to the U.S. pork industry and add significantly to producers’ bottom line. Last year, the industry exported nearly $7.7 billion of pork and pork products, supporting more than 155,000 U.S. jobs. Those exports added $61.26 to the price producers received for each hog marketed.

One of NPPC’s top priorities is negotiating agreements that include market entry and give the pork industry access to international markets, which has worked with successive administrations to negotiate better access for U.S. pork. In fact, the U.S. exported more pork to the 20 countries with which it has FTAs than to the rest of the world combined.

NPPC Comments on FDA’s Food Labeling Update

What happened: NPPC submitted comments as a result of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposed change in food labeling regarding the word “healthy.” The goal of the new “healthy” label is to be consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines must be updated every five years by USDA and Health and Human Services (HHS), which has generated concern that the definition of “healthy” may also have to be updated every five years based on these guidelines.

Why it matters: The meaning of “healthy” being subject to change every five years could result in products having to be continually reevaluated to maintain their nutritive values in the stated guidelines of the “healthy” definition. As an organization that stresses the nutrition and hard-won safety of the pork products provided to consumers, NPPC wants to ensure the pork industry continues to produce safe, wholesome and nutritious protein for America and the world.

NPPC’s take: NPPC supports the FDA’s proposal to update the definition of “healthy,” but draws attention and careful consideration to the impacts of updating the term every five years, the unintended consequences of utilizing restrictive nutrients and the everchanging behavior of consumers as it relates to a daily diet.

Read Comments

NPPC Applauds Nomination of Xochitl Torres Small to Serve as USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture

What happened: President Joe Biden has nominated Xochitl Torres Small to serve as the USDA Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Torres Small is a lawyer, a former congresswoman from New Mexico and recent Under Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development.

As the granddaughter of farmworkers and with past legal work focused on water and natural resource law, Torres Small’s knowledge and commitment to rural prosperity and perspective on state and local issues will serve her well in her new role. During her time as Under Secretary, she was integral in helping Rural Development become the first entity to make Inflation Reduction Act funds available to drive down energy costs for farmers and rural small businesses.

Why it matters: American agriculture needs leaders committed to supporting agriculture and the rural economy. NPPC looks forward to working with Torres Small to continue improving the agriculture industry.