Capital Update – For the Week Ending May 26, 2023
In this week’s National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) Friday recap: victorious WOTUS ruling, USDA Section 32 pork purchase, NPPC wants the elimination of Kenya U.S. pork restrictions, USDA disaster relief funds, Feral Swine Eradication Program legislation and Codex Alimentarius meetings. Take a deeper dive below.
Pork Producers Celebrate SCOTUS Ruling on WOTUS
What happened: This week’s historic Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) decision to define the limits of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority under the Clean Water Act is a tremendous victory for America’s pork producers. For nearly two decades, NPPC played a lead role in fighting against attempts to expand the federal government’s power over private land.
The Sackett v. EPA case challenged the defined Water of the United States (WOTUS). The 9-0 SCOTUS ruling was decisive and spelled the end of the Obama/Biden WOTUS rule.
The lowdown on what the decision stated:
- Significant-Nexus: The judges were unanimous – 9-0 – on eliminating the use of significant-nexus. This is the foundation of the Obama/Biden WOTUS rules.
- WOTUS Decision: The Clean Water Act’s (CWA) use of “waters” encompasses only those relatively permanent, which are standing or continuously flowing bodies of water forming geographical features that are described in ordinary parlance as streams, oceans, rivers and lakes.
- Wetlands: As for wetlands, the CWA extends to only those wetlands that are as a practical matter indistinguishable from waters of the United States. This requires the party asserting jurisdiction over adjacent wetlands to establish first, that the adjacent body of water constitutes WOTUS (i.e., a relatively permanent body of water connected to traditional interstate navigable waters) and second, that the wetland has a continuous surface connection with that water, making it difficult to determine where the water ends and the wetland begins.
- Four justices (Kavanaugh, Kagan, Sotomayor and Jackson) thought this went too far.
- Implications on 2023 WOTUS Rule: The Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency case addresses the pre-2015 WOTUS definition, not the 2023 rule. As a result, the 2023 rule remains in the books, but functionally, EPA and the Corps cannot enforce it.
- Return Power to the States: Most amici briefs argued to push authority away from the federal government, leaving many to wonder whether this would create a vacuum in regulations over pollution. Parts of our broad coalition filed a brief arguing the inverse – explicitly advocating that the states are best positioned to regulate features within their borders and already do so.
NPPC’s take: “The Supreme Court’s historical decision to define the limits of EPA authority under the Clean Water Act is a tremendous victory for America’s pork producers who have played a leading role for almost two decades in opposing the agency’s heavy-handed efforts to micromanage our farms. This ruling is a clear punctuation point after decades of attempts by activists and the EPA to expand the federal government’s power and control over private land. Farmers are the originators of conservation and are taught the key to preservation is to protect our natural resources. We can now proceed with certainty to use all our conservation assets to best farm our land so we can deliver healthy food to our customers for generations to come.” – Duane Stateler, NPPC vice president and Ohio pork producer
NPPC Applauds USDA Pork Purchase
What happened: This week, USDA confirmed plans for a Section 32 purchase of $50.1 million of pork for distribution to various food nutrition and assistant programs. Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1935 authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to make commodity purchases, entitlement purchases, and disaster assistance using funds appropriated annually from U.S. customs receipts.
Why it’s important: The U.S. pork industry faces a challenging market environment resulting in the worst five months of average losses in 20 years. The current decline in producer profitability results from steady to slightly higher hog supplies combined with weaker wholesale pork demand, resulting in lower year-over-year hog prices that are being met with record-high production costs.
This combination of impacts has resulted in more than $1.4 billion in industry losses over the last five months, calculated as the average per-head loss multiplied by the number of hogs slaughtered from November 2022 through March 2023.
An Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Section 32 pork purchase can provide much-needed support to the wholesale pork market, and, therefore, the hog market, while also securing affordable, nutritious pork products for USDA recipient programs.
NPPC’s position: NPPC applauds USDA’s purchase and looks forward to continuing to work with the administration to identify additional opportunities to find support for U.S. pork producers during these challenging market conditions.
Learn more: Information on becoming a USDA-approved vendor is available here.
USDA Making Funds Available for Disaster Relief
What happened: Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced last week that USDA will provide $3.7 billion in Emergency Relief Program (ERP) and Emergency Livestock Relief Program (ELRP) assistance to crop and livestock producers who had losses because of a qualifying natural disaster in 2022. The agency also will distribute the remainder of 2021 ELRP funds, giving 2021 recipients an additional 20% of their initial payment.
Because funds are limited and expected to be less than the estimated losses crop and livestock farmers suffered last year from wildfires, droughts, hurricanes, winter storms and other eligible disasters. According to Vilsack, USDA is designing payment factors that ensure fair, equitable and efficient delivery of benefits to help as many producers as possible.
For affected livestock producers, USDA intends to leverage the Farm Service Agency’s Livestock Forage Program (LFP) data to deliver ELRP assistance for increases in supplemental feed costs in 2022. To be eligible for an ELRP payment, livestock producers will need to have suffered grazing losses from a wildfire or be in a county rated by the U.S. Drought Monitor as having a D2 (severe drought) for eight consecutive weeks or a D3 (extreme drought) or higher level of intensity during 2022. They also must have applied and been approved for the 2022 LFP.
In the coming months, USDA intends to provide additional information on how to apply for assistance through ERP and ELRP for 2022 losses, but here is the current information on the programs.
NPPC’s take: NPPC supports federal programs offering a safety net for producers and encourages pork producers who suffered losses from natural disasters in 2022 to sign up for the ELRP.
NPPC Wants Kenya to Eliminate Restrictions on U.S. Pork
What happened: The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released text summaries proposed by the U.S. during the first round of the U.S.-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP) negotiations held last month in Nairobi, Kenya. The initiative’s goal is to “increase investment; promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth; benefit workers, consumers and businesses; and support African regional economic integration.”
The STIP’s draft text on agriculture seeks to increase transparency and regulatory certainty for exporters and importers and includes provisions on food safety, plant health and animal health protection. It also covers science-based decision-making to protect human, plant and animal life and health; improve processes and promote cooperation on regulatory and administrative requirements; and facilitate agricultural trade, with provisions related to import licensing, certification requirements and equivalency to ensure that requirements for importation are clearly communicated to agricultural producers.
What it means for producers: With a population of about 50 million, an expanding middle class and relatively strong tourism-driven demand from its hotel, restaurant and institutional food service sectors, Kenya has the potential to be a significant export market for U.S. pork products. Currently, though, it has tariff and non-tariff barriers that limit U.S. pork imports.
NPPC’s position: NPPC supports the talks between the U.S. and Kenya and hopes negotiations will further open the African nation’s market to U.S. pork. In comments submitted to USTR last year following the announcement of the STIP, NPPC urged U.S. trade negotiators to push Kenya to eliminate its unjustified restrictions on U.S. pork imports. Those include onerous testing and inspection requirements, non-science-based sanitary and phytosanitary barriers and failure to recognize the equivalence of U.S. pork production practices and the U.S. food safety inspection and approval system for pork slaughter, processing and storage plants.
Bill Would Make Feral Swine Eradication Program Permanent
What happened: Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) and Raphael Warnock (D-GA) recently introduced the “Feral Swine Eradication Act” to extend for five years and make permanent a pilot program for eliminating wild hogs to safeguard public health and protect agricultural crops and lands and wildlife habitat. Representative Monica De La Cruz (D-TX) in February introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House.
The pilot program, which was included in the 2018 five-year Farm Bill, is jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Initially, 20 pilot projects in 10 states were funded; 14 projects in eight states were selected for a second round of funding. States that had projects were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.
Why it’s important to producers: According to USDA, feral swine cost the country more than $2 billion annually in control efforts and damage mostly to agricultural crops and land. They carry myriad diseases that can affect people, livestock and wildlife. Additionally, given that they are present in 35 of the states and there are nearly 7 million of them, feral swine could quickly spread African swine fever if there were an outbreak of the pig-only disease in the United States.
NPPC’s position: NPPC backed the APHIS-NRCS Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program and is supporting the new “Feral Swine Eradication Act.” It also supports including in the 2023 Farm Bill $75 million for five years for continuing efforts to eliminate feral swine.
Codex Alimentarius Recent Meeting Updates
What happened? Dr. Trachelle Carr, NPPC’s International Technical Services Specialist, participated in two recent Codex Alimentarius meetings.
What meetings took place? The Codex Alimentarius’ 26th Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems meeting was the first one to occur, and the second was the 47th Codex Committee on Food Labeling meeting.
Codex Alimentarius’ 26th Meeting: This Australia-hosted hybrid meeting brought people together to discuss a plethora of issues, such as drafting guidelines to move forward in the standard-making process for countries providing the availability of remote audits in the case where an event (global pandemic) occurs that does not allow in-person auditing.
Codex Alimentarius’ 47th Codex Committee on Food Labeling Meeting: This Canada-hosted meeting, also discussing several pertinent issues, such as a discussion paper on sustainability labeling claims. The foundation of this paper is that sustainability is a global issue and there is increasing consumer interest about sustainability of products, including food products. Ultimately, the decision was made to an electronic working group for further exploration if drafting guidelines would be the best next step.
Why it matters? As a collection of guidelines and standards that focus on protecting consumer health, it is important to ensure that any food being traded is safe for consumers.