The U.S. pork industry is facing serious headwinds both at home and abroad that need to be addressed to ensure the industry remains competitive, allowing for expanded production, greater job growth and continued contribution to rural communities across the country, Iowa Pork Producers President Trent Thiele testified this morning before the Senate Agriculture Committee.
U.S. pork producers need trade certainty and ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement is one of the industry’s top priorities, says Thiele, a hog farmer from Howard County, Iowa, testifying on behalf of the National Pork Producers Council. Last year, more than 40% of U.S. pork exported went to Canada and Mexico. “USMCA will strengthen the strong economic ties with our North American neighbors, and help ensure tariff-free trade on pork remains in place for the long term. ... U.S. pork producers urge Congress to ratify USMCA, providing much-needed certainty in two of our largest export markets.”
Trade certainty is also critical in Japan, the largest value export market for U.S. pork, Thiele tells the committee. The U.S. pork industry was pleased that a trade agreement with Japan was agreed to in principle and, once implemented, will place it back on a level playing field with international competitors. We urge the administration to quickly ratify the agreement in one of our most important markets, Thiele says.
However, U.S. pork producers continue to seek an end to the trade dispute with China, Thiele highlights. Affordable pork is in short supply in China because African swine fever has ravaged the Chinese hog herd and significantly reduced the production of pork. Yet the United States is missing out “on an unprecedented sales opportunity” in China due to punitive tariffs that have cost U.S. producers $8 per animal, or $1 billion on an annualized, industry-wide basis over the last year, he says. “While recent Chinese media reports have suggested tariff relief for U.S. pork, we need to remove market access uncertainty and level the playing field in the world’s largest pork-consuming nation.”
In addition to trade issues, U.S. pork producers are working to prevent the spread of foreign animal diseases, including African swine fever, an animal disease affecting only pigs and with no human health or food safety risks, Thiele explains. The U.S. pork industry is urging Congress to add 600 additional agricultural inspectors at our borders and ports.
In his testimony, Thiele also highlights 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.
• 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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has claimed jurisdiction.
Click here to read Thiele’s prepared remarks.