Trade Tops List of Challenges U.S. Pig Farmers Face

The challenges U.S. pig farmers are facing today need to be addressed, National Pork Producers Council president David Herring testified before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture on Tuesday. If these challenges aren’t addressed, both at home and abroad, significant harm could come to U.S. farms, rural communities and ultimately consumers.

Herring, a pork producer from Lillington, N.C., discussed the hearing on Wednesday’s AgriTalk with Chip Flory. Trade issues in the livestock industry topped his list of the most damaging threats to the U.S. pork industry. In the pork industry, over 40% of exports go to Canada and Mexico. The trade issues are a major issue for all of agriculture, Herring said.

“Everybody on the panel was in unison. We can't get the USMCA ratified quick enough. And really, all the lawmakers were in the same in the same court with us,” he added.

In the hearing, Herring called for expedited 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 TPP-11 nations.

“A good friend of mine, an economist at Iowa State, said if we don't get that fixed, and we don't get a free trade or a bilateral with Japan, within five years, we could be out of the market because we're losing competitiveness,” he said. “I think the lawmakers heard that yesterday.”

Other pork priorities highlighted 

African swine fever (ASF) was a critical part of the discussion. Herring shared with the subcommittee the importance of keeping this deadly disease of swine out of the U.S.

“We talked about what USDA is doing to help combat ASF and what CBP is doing. We’ve been pushing for more funding as we need about 600 more agricultural specialists at some of these entry points,” he said. “Foreign animal disease introduced into the United States would be devastating to all of agriculture, not just pigs. I mean, it would be all of agriculture.”

Flory asked Herring to share his thoughts on the labor issue that continues to be a major concern in agriculture and something that needs addressed in the dairy, hog and poultry industries.

“Fortunately, or unfortunately, most of those farmers live in rural areas, and unemployment is at its lowest rate across the country ever. And it's even lower in the rural areas,” Herring said. “To be able to do our jobs and provide the animal care that we need to while making sure we're providing safe, healthy, affordable food, we have to have labor. And they heard that loud and clear from every sector yesterday.”

Listen to the full report with Chip Flory and David Herring. 

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