The punitive, retaliatory trade tariffs that China and other countries have imposed continue to plague the U.S. pork industry, National Pork Producers Council president David Herring told members of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture during Tuesday’s hearing on the state of the livestock and poultry economy.
“Trade is a win-win for the pork industry. We’ve gone from basically 1987 as a net importer of pork to today where we export about 25% of all the product grown here, so it’s been huge for our industry,” says the Lillington, N.C. pork producer. “It takes two parties to consummate a deal with trade. Any time you make one of those parties uneasy, it’s hard to get back in, so it’s very concerning.”
China is the largest consumer and importer of pork in the world, but U.S. hog farmers have been sidelined, Herring told the subcommittee, due to China’s 62% tariff on American pork that have cost domestic producers $1 billion on an annualized basis.
“There is an unprecedented sales opportunity for U.S. pork producers in China as that country continues to battle the spread of African swine fever and experiences a major reduction in domestic production,” Herring says. “Instead, this trade opportunity is fueling jobs, profits and rural development for our international competitors. We seek an end to the trade dispute with China and the restoration of more favorable access to the world’s largest pork-consuming nation.”
Herring also called for expeditated negotiation of a trade agreement with Japan, where U.S. pork producers are losing market share due to new trade agreements Japan has formed with the European Union and Trans-Pacific Partnership-11 nations.
In addition to trade issues, U.S. pork producers are working to prevent the spread of ASF, an animal disease affecting only pigs and with no human health or food safety risks, Herring explained to the subcommittee.
“We can all agree that we need to keep this deadly swine-only disease out of the USA,” Herring says.
To that end, the NPPC has been advocating for strengthened biosecurity at our borders and is requesting appropriations funding for 600 additional U.S. Customs and Border Protection agricultural inspectors at U.S. borders.
In his testimony, Herring also highlighted several other priorities for U.S. pork producers, including:
- Visa reform to address a serious labor shortage that could lead to farms and packing plants closing operations. The NPPC supports visa system reform that provides agricultural employers with sustained access to year-round labor.
- Implementation of the 2018 farm bill as intended by Congress, including development of a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank needed to quickly contain and eradicate an outbreak.
- The right regulatory framework for gene-edited livestock, an innovation that promises to strengthen U.S. pork’s competitive position globally. Through its “Keep America First in Agriculture” campaign, the NPPC is aggressively working to establish oversight within the USDA where it belongs, not with the Food and Drug Administration, which has claimed jurisdiction.
“Addressing these challenges will make U.S. hog farmers even more competitive, expand production, fuel job growth and contribute to rural communities across the country,” Herring says.