A key message at the House Agriculture Livestock Subcommittee hearing on the economic conditions of the pork industry was clear: “Our pork is safe to eat.” Congressional members, USDA officials and pork industry representatives all emphasized that U.S. pork is safe to eat and one cannot get infected with the novel H1N1 influenza virus from eating pork or pork products. USDA said that the recent economic distress was due to overexpansion in response to higher than normal profits in previous years, combined with recession-driven declines in domestic and international demand. USDA expects the hog sector to “improve substantially” over the next year as the breeding herd continues to contract and domestic and international demand improves. According to USDA, from October 2007 through September 29, 2009, the hog sector lost approximately $4 billion. Members of Congress urged USDA to consider purchasing more pork products for federal feeding programs and to work with various countries, especially China, to reopen their markets to U.S. pork.
Pork Producers Asks Congress to Help — The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) at the House Agriculture Livestock Subcommittee hearing called upon Congress to take steps to help U.S. pork producers. NPPC stated: “To stop producer foreclosures and bankruptcies and for producers to continue providing consumers around the globe with the safest, most nutritious meat protein, we need to find a way out of this two year-old crisis. Pork producers asked Congress to:
• Urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make more purchases of pork for various federal food assistance programs. USDA recently bought $30 million of pork.
• Reexamine a spending cap on USDA’s Section 32 program so the agency can meet the goals of the program. Congress implemented the cap as part of the 2008 Farm Bill.
• Pressure U.S. trading partners, particularly China and Russia, to eliminate their barriers to U.S. pork imports.
• Approve as soon as possible the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, which would add greatly to pork producers’ bottom lines.
• Conduct a study of the economic impact on the livestock industry of an expansion of corn-ethanol production and usage. The Environmental Protection Agency is considering an increase in the amount of ethanol that must be blended into gasoline from the current 10% inclusion rate to 15%.
• Support allowing the ethanol import tariff and federal blenders’ tax credit to expire.
• Support regulations and legislation that promote pork producers’ ability to run their operations.
• Oppose measures that would place on pork producers undue burdens and higher costs such as restrictions on access to capital and contract arrangements or prohibitions on production practices, including banning the use of certain animal health products. Livestock & Poultry Ask Congress to Restrict Greenhouse Gas Reporting — Livestock and poultry groups have asked Congress to restrict the implementation of any rule requiring the mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems in place on livestock farms. According to the group, “(under the) proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations, livestock producers who emit over the equivalent of 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide would be required to calculate and report the level of those emissions. The requirement would treat farms in a manner identical to coal-fired power plants and petroleum refineries and would impose an onerous burden on livestock producers to ascertain emissions from diffuse sources.” This issue will be decided by the House-Senate conference committee considering the Fiscal Year 2010 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. Those signing the letter to Congress were American Sheep Industry Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council and the National Turkey Federation.
E. Coli Testing — Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) has introduced legislation, “E. Coli Eradication Act,” that would require meat plants to test beef before and after it is ground. The legislation would require all plants that process ground beef to test their products regularly before it is ground and again before it is combined with other beef or ingredients and packaged. Senator Gillibrand said, “In America, in 2009, it is unconscionable that food is still going straight to our kitchens, school cafeterias and restaurants without being properly tested to ensure its safety.”
Groups Support Agricultural Trade Nominee — Forty-six agricultural and food organizations sent a letter to the Senate stating their support for the nomination of Dr. Isi Siddiqui as chief agricultural trade negotiator at U.S. Trade Representative. Siddiqui currently serves as vice president of CropLife America. In the late ’90s, he served at USDA as under the Office of the Secretary for marketing and regulatory programs and senior trade advisor to Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. Those signing the letter included American Farm Bureau Federation, American Meat Institute, American Soybean Association, Growth Energy, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Meat Association, National Pork Producers Council and the United Egg Association.
P. Scott Shearer