A COVID-relief package that includes much-needed assistance to hog farmers in crisis and foreign animal disease prevention top the list of five critical issues at the National Pork Producers Council's Legislative Action Conference this week. Pork producers from across the country are gathering virtually to address these and other issues with lawmakers. Among LAC speakers will be House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.) and USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Chief Veterinary Officer Burke Healey.
"The considerable economic contributions of a highly competitive, innovative U.S. pork production system, as well as the livelihoods of thousands of hog farmers, are at risk without effective solutions to multiple challenges facing our producers," says NPPC President Howard "AV" Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wis. "U.S. pork producers are already suffering considerable losses due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and cannot afford another catastrophic blow should African swine fever or other foreign animal diseases enter our country."
Last week, Germany reported its first case of ASF in a wild boar. The swine-only disease continues to spread in parts of Europe and Asia, and the United States needs to remain vigilant to ensure ASF and other animal and plant diseases don't enter the country.
NPPC is urging Congress to fully fund foreign animal disease prevention programs. U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspections at U.S. ports of entry are funded by Agricultural Quarantine Inspection program user fees. Due to the COVID-related economic downturn and significant reductions in travel, collection of these user fees has dropped precipitously.
"Without a prompt resolution, there will be an estimated $630 million shortfall in AQI funding through the end of fiscal year 2021. It is imperative that this funding shortfall be addressed to protect the U.S. swine herd and all of agriculture from foreign animal and plant diseases," Roth says.
Additionally, NPPC is advocating for a COVID assistance package that includes the following provisions:
- Compensation for euthanized and donated hogs.
- Additional funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories, which have appropriately assisted and shared resources with their public health partners.
- Modification of the Commodity Credit Corporation charter so a pandemic-driven national emergency qualifies for funding.
- Additional funds for direct payments to producers without restriction.
- Extension of the Paycheck Protection Program with modifications to make it accessible to more producers.
NPPC's members are also addressing these priorities with lawmakers during this week's LAC:
- A U.S.-U.K. free trade agreement that eliminates all tariff and non-tariff barriers.
- Moving regulatory oversight of gene editing in animals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the USDA.
- Timely reauthorization of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act, set to expire on Sept. 30.