Lately it seems as though nearly every significant news story impacting agriculture has originated in close proximity to Washington, D.C. Though the sequestration fallout for the pork industry seems quiet now, hang onto your hat this summer. According to our Legislative Preview reporter Scott Shearer, this week Under Secretary of Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen told the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee that the proposed sequestration plan will, indeed, include U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) meat and poultry inspectors. The plan at this point includes 11 furlough days, no more than one day a week and no more than two days per pay period, scheduled from July to September for all 8,136 meat inspectors and a number of related staff.
Meanwhile, just one week after being elected President of the National Pork Producers Council, Randy Spronk, Edgerton, MN, wrote an opinion piece for Roll Call in which he points out that there are many who fear that ongoing gridlock between Congress and President Obama will result in government being run by regulatory action. “That result creates a lot of uncertainty and anxiety among U.S. business owners, including farmers, because they don’t know what government action to expect, when to expect it and who to expect it from. Therefore, communication and expectations between government and industry will be crucial,” he writes. Spronk believes that President Obama’s nominee to be the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, Gina McCarthy, could potentially provide a much-needed overhaul for the agency. Based on previous dealings with McCarthy during her four years as the assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, Spronk believes McCarthy would work to treat U.S. hog farmers as partners and not adversaries.
Speaking of that adversarial relationship, you may remember that outgoing EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson listed her contentious relationship with farmers as her biggest regret about her time in office. Ironically, just as that statement of regret was hitting the media, it was revealed that EPA had released personal information about livestock and poultry producers to a host of environmental activist groups, potentially putting farms and farmers at risk for vandalism and possibly jeopardizing the security of the food supply. In response to that action, a group of 40 U.S. Congressmen sent a letter to acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe this week. The Congressmen expressed deep concern about the release of the information, and demanded to know what EPA is going to do to remedy the situation (and prevent it from happening again).
All of the political news is a bit of a (fiscal) cliffhanger. We should find out more details in coming days about the specific impact proposed budgets will have on agriculture. Be sure to follow the Legislative Preview section of nationalhogfarmer.com to follow the latest developments. What concerns you most when you consider the extensive list of political decisions that can impact your pork production business? Leave your comment here, or email [email protected] to share your concerns.