Legislative Watch: Strengthening local meat processing; start-stop of coronavirus aide package; 301 Vietnam investigation; Perdue violates ethics law; Congress is recessed.

P. Scott Shearer, Vice President

October 9, 2020

3 Min Read
Screengrab from a YouTube video produced by the University of Minnesota Extension Swine Team "How to Butcher a Pig for Home U
Screen grab from a YouTube video produced by the University of Minnesota Extension Swine Team "How to Butcher a Pig for Home Use"University of Minnesota

Legislation was introduced by Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) to expand processing capacity for small meat and poultry producers and encourage more states to adopt state inspection programs.

The "Strengthening Local Processing Act" would increase the federal share of costs for state inspection from 50 to 65%. The federal share for Cooperative Interstate Shipment facilities would be increased from 60 to 80% which would encourage more states to implement state inspection programs and participate in CIS. Currently, 27 states have a state inspection program and eight states participate in CIS.

The legislation would authorize grants for small facilities and nongovernmental organizations to offset the cost of training new meat processors and for colleges and universities to provide training programs for meat processing.

Organizations supporting the legislation include the National Farmers Union, National Bison Association, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and U.S. Cattlemen's Association.

Trump stops coronavirus assistance negotiations
President Trump called off the negotiations of the coronavirus assistance package until after the Nov. 3 election and asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to focus on the Supreme Court nomination.

But hours later, Trump reversed course and said Congress should pass a stand-alone bill to provide support for the airline industry. The U.S. airlines are facing severe economic hardships and have been asking Congress and the administration that relief be provided in the assistance package to help avoid massive layoffs.

The House-passed "Heroes Act" provides $25 billion in support for the airlines to help maintain payrolls.

The "Heroes Act" contains a number of agricultural provisions including additional support for dairy producers; payments to assist contract growers of livestock and poultry because of COVID-19; assistance for market-ready livestock and poultry that are depopulated due to processing plant shut-downs; and an increase of 15% in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

Producers, businesses and Americans facing hardships because of coronavirus will now have to wait until after the election.

USTR begins 301 investigation of Vietnam
The office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced it is initiating a 301 investigation into trade practices by Vietnam concerning illegal harvested timber and an additional investigation on currency undervaluation.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer says in a statement, "Using illegal timber in wood products exported to the U.S. market harms the environment and is unfair to U.S. workers and businesses who follow the rules by using legally harvested timber. In addition, unfair currency practices can harm U.S. workers and businesses that compete with Vietnamese products that may be artificially lower-priced because of currency undervaluation."

Vietnam was the U.S. 17th largest trading partner in 2018 with $58.8 billion in two-way trade in goods.

Perdue violates ethics law
The Office of Special Counsel rules that Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue violated the Hatch Act for his remarks at the Farmers for Food Box event in North Carolina in August. The Hatch Act prohibits political activity by executive branch employees.

The OSC says in a letter, "Taken as a whole, Secretary Perdue's comments during the Aug. 24 event encouraged those present, and those watching remotely, to vote for President Trump's reelection. His first words were not about USDA, but about the president's 2016 and 2020 campaigns."

Perdue was ordered to reimburse the government for travel and other costs for his participation in the event.

Congress in recess
The House of Representatives is in recess until after the election and the Senate does not plan to return until later this month to consider the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Source: P. Scott Shearer, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.

About the Author(s)

P. Scott Shearer

Vice President, Bockorny Group, Inc.

Scott Shearer is vice president of the Bockorny Group Inc., a leading bipartisan government affairs consulting firm in Washington, D.C. With more than 30 years experience in government and corporate relations in state and national arenas, he is recognized as a leader in agricultural trade issues, having served as co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for U.S.-China Trade and co-chairman of the Agricultural Coalition for Trade Promotion Authority. Scott was instrumental in the passage of China Permanent Normal Trade Relations and TPA. He is past chairman of the USDA-USTR Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products and was a member of the USAID Food Security Advisory Committee. Prior to joining the Bockorny Group, Scott served as director of national relations for Farmland Industries Inc., as well as USDA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Congressional Affairs (1993-96), serving as liaison for the Secretary of Agriculture and the USDA to Congress.

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