Capital Update – For the Week Ending March 24, 2023
In this week’s National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) Friday recap: federal judge bars WOTUS rule in two states, NPPC invited to present at the WTO, West Coast Ports labor talks and NPPC’s Spring Legislative Action Conference. Take a deeper dive below.
Federal Judge Bars WOTUS Rule in Two States
What happened: Last weekend, a federal judge in a Southern District of Texas blocked the Biden administration’s rule defining Waters of the United States (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act from taking effect in two states, Texas and Idaho, in litigation that National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) participated in as part of a coalition of national agriculture and business groups to ensure that the rights of producers, farmers, ranchers, and landowners are protected from regulatory overreach.
On Wednesday, a federal judge in North Dakota agreed to allow the same coalition to intervene – join as parties – a similar lawsuit filed by a coalition of 24 state Attorney Generals, including those in major pork-producing states such as Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota, among other states. The parties, in that case, are also seeking to stop the WOTUS rule from taking effect nationally.
- January 2023 – A coalition of 18 agricultural and business organizations filed suit in federal court in Texas challenging the EPA’s December 2022 WOTUS rule. The lawsuit is joined with a case filed by Texas and Idaho Attorney Generals.
- February 16, 2023 – 24 State Attorney Generals filed a lawsuit in federal court in North Dakota challenging the EPA’s December 2022 WOTUS rule.
- February 22, 2023 – Coalition of 18 agricultural and business organizations request to join state Attorney General litigation.
- March 19, 2023 – Texas court blocks WOTUS rules from taking effect in Idaho and Texas.
- March 20, 2023 – WOTUS rule took effect in 48 states.
- March 22, 2023 – Coalition of 18 agricultural and business organizations are allowed to join challenges filed by 24 State Attorney Generals seeking EPA from enforcing WOTUS rules.
What does this mean: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers seek to substantially expand jurisdiction and control of a staggering range of farmlands and water features far beyond what Congress intended when it passed the Clean Water Act. Under the rule, pork producers will be at constant risk that any feature on their farmland that sometimes holds water will be deemed WOTUS using vague and unpredictable standards. This could force farmers to obtain permits for routine activities on their farms – from planting seeds to applying fertilizer – and face the threat of enhanced activist litigation.
NPPC’s take: The Clean Water Act must be workable for farmers, and the Biden administration’s final rule defining what is considered WOTUS would create tremendous risk for farmers and undermine Congress’s intent when it included important exemptions for agricultural activities in the Clean Water Act. Ultimately, this rule could lead to a situation where farmers are forced to obtain permits to undertake basic farming practices, such as planting seeds or applying nutrients or crop protectants to their fields.
NPPC Presents at WTO Meeting on Fostering Agriculture Sustainability
What happened: NPPC Vice President of International Affairs Maria Zieba and Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, Minnesota, were invited to participate in the World Trade Organization’s Sanitary-Phytosanitary (SPS) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. Spronk, the former NPPC president, gave a presentation on the importance of technology to pork industry sustainability and food security goals.
On his farm, Spronk said, technology is used in best management and regenerative cropping practices, which have helped soil health and have reduced carbon emissions. Technology also helps facilitate sustainable intensification – increased productivity – while achieving sustainability objectives. However, he warned trade barriers could block the use of critical technologies by restrictions and even bans on antibiotics and genetically modified organisms in food production, for example.
Why it matters: According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the world will need to produce 70% more food to feed a population expected to top 9 billion by 2050. Technological advances will primarily support the increase in food production. At the same time, worldwide efforts to check climate change have targeted some livestock production practices as contributing to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
The U.S. production system, particularly for hog production, however, has been held up as a model of sustainability. As Spronk pointed out in his presentation, over the past 60 years, the U.S. pork industry has reduced land use by 75%, water by 25%, and total energy by 7%, giving it an 8% smaller carbon footprint.
NPPC’s take: NPPC supports using technologies to increase pork production while reducing the industry’s carbon footprint. It opposes arbitrary, non-science-based trade barriers that stifle innovation.
Groups Urge Biden to Intervene in West Coast Ports Labor Talks
What happened: On Thursday, NPPC joined 114 other agriculture and business organizations in a letter to President Biden urging the White House to intervene in the ongoing West Coast port labor negotiations between dockworkers and port facilities owners. The groups asked the administration to work with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) to “quickly reach a new agreement and ensure there is no disruption to port operations and cargo fluidity.”
Members of the ILWU have been working without a contract for more than eight months, and the talks between the union and the PMA have gone on for more than ten months and have yet to make progress on reaching a labor agreement. The only way to resolve their labor issues, the organizations said in their letter, is for the parties to remain at the bargaining table. “We encourage the administration to provide any and all support to the parties in their negotiations to reach a final agreement.”
Why it matters: About 60% of U.S. pork exports are transported by ocean freight, with the vast majority going out through West Coast ports to Asia – three of the pork industry’s top export markets are China, Japan and South Korea.
Port disruptions, including dockworker strikes and work slowdowns, can jeopardize the delivery of perishable commodities, costing agricultural producers millions of dollars and, potentially, foreign customers.
NPPC’s take: NPPC wants to avoid port disruptions similar to those in late 2014 into early 2015 at West Coast ports that negatively affected pork exports. Work slowdowns at the ports from San Diego to Seattle cost the U.S. meat industry millions of dollars in lost export sales.
The U.S. pork industry depends on exports, which account for about a quarter of all sales annually and contribute significantly to every producer’s bottom line.
NPPC Spring Legislative Action Conference – March 29-30
What’s happening: NPPC’s Spring Legislative Action Conference (LAC) is set for March 29-30 in Washington, D.C. More than 100 pork producers from around the country will attend the biannual fly-in to meet with their Members of Congress to discuss the U.S. pork industry’s policy priorities and provide insights on how policy decisions are made in Washington, DC affect their farms and families.
The Spring 2023 LAC is sponsored by Merck Animal Health.
Learn more: Pork producers interested in attending should contact their state pork association or NPPC.