LAC Priorities: COVID Assistance, Ag Inspection Funding

K9 Hardy, above, intercepted a roasted pig head in luggage, and Webster, left, did his job to clear Olympic athletes at the airport. ( U.S. Customs and Border Protection )

By Nick Giordano, NPPC

In a typical year, early September would have meant pork producers descending on our nation’s capital, gathering for our fall Legislative Action Conference (LAC), meeting with their lawmakers about pressing issues and enjoying Congressional Bacon Fest, a much-beloved event that showcases bacon and other pork products. However, this year is anything but typical. While the COVID-19 pandemic forced many events, including ours, to be virtual, our fall LAC still enabled U.S. pork producers to make their voices heard to Congress.
 
NPPC’s top priority is to ensure Congress includes much-needed assistance in the next COVID relief package to help pork producers weather this crisis. As a result of this unprecedented pandemic, U.S. hog farmers remain in crisis and additional federal assistance is urgently needed to preserve the livelihoods of thousands of farmers. 
 
Specifically, NPPC is urging Congress to include the following five priorities in the next COVID aid package: 
1. Compensation for euthanized and donated hogs
2. Additional funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories, which have appropriately assisted and shared resources with their public health partners 
3. Modification of the Commodity Credit Corporation charter so a pandemic-driven national emergency qualifies for funding
4. Additional funds for direct payments to producers without restriction
5. Extension of the Paycheck Protection Program with modifications to make it useful to more producers
 
Another top priority addressed at NPPC’s LAC were efforts to protect the U.S. swine herd from African swine fever, Foot-and-Mouth Disease and other foreign animal diseases (FADs). The most likely path for a FAD to enter the country would be through the importation of infected animals or contaminated products. Therefore, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agricultural inspectors are the first line of defense against diseases and pests at U.S. land, sea and airports. 
 
NPPC has been leading efforts to ensure there is sufficient funding for CBP agricultural inspectors. The inspectors are funded by Agricultural Quarantine Inspection program user fees, however due to the COVID-related economic downturn and travel restrictions, there has been an unprecedented and dangerous drop in the collection of these user fees. Even the USDA user fee reserve fund will be depleted by the end of fiscal year 2020. Without a prompt resolution, there will be an estimated $630 million shortfall in funding through the end of fiscal year 2021. It is absolutely essential that this funding shortfall be addressed.
 
During the virtual fall LAC, NPPC also urged:
 
•    Support for a U.S.-U.K. free trade agreement that eliminates all tariff and non-tariff barriers and embraces international production standards. The U.K. purchases $2.5 billion of pork every year, making it one of the world’s top importers. However, U.S. pork exports to the UK were only $3.4 million in 2019 due to multiple tariff and non-tariff trade barriers.
•    Oversight of gene-edited livestock at USDA, which has the understanding and history with livestock issues. Gene editing faces an impractical, lengthy and expensive approval process if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is allowed to seize regulatory control.
•    Congressional reauthorization of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act as a standalone alone measure or extension as part of a continuing resolution to fund the government past Sept. 30. The current Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act, which offers market information and critical transparency on pricing, contracting for purchase and supply-and-demand conditions on hogs, expires on Sept. 30, 2020.
 
Giordano serves as vice president and counsel, global government affairs for NPPC.

Read more about how funding shortfalls could impact agricultural inspections at PorkBusiness.com/ag-inspections-funding.

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