Although the U.S. pork industry is in good economic shape, pork producers’ future fortunes can be affected – for good or for ill – by opportunities and challenges with which they are presented, the National Pork Producers Council told members of the House Committee on Agriculture’s livestock subcommittee, which was continuing a series of hearings on the rural economy.
A challenge of particular concern to the pork industry is proposed rules from the U.S. Department of Agriculture related to the buying and selling of livestock, said NPPC board member David Herring, a pork producer from North Carolina who testified before the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture.
USDA is reproposing parts of the so-called GIPSA (Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration) Rule, which first was proposed in 2010 to implement provisions included in the 2008 Farm Bill. The regulations, however, went well beyond the Farm Bill provisions and would have had a significant negative effect on the livestock industry, according to analyses. A November 2010 Informa Economics study of the rule found it would have cost the pork industry more than $330 million annually.
Tens of thousands of comments, including 16,000 from pork producers, were filed in opposition to the rule, and Congress several times included riders in USDA’s annual funding bill to prevent it from finalizing the regulation. But no rider was included in USDA’s fiscal 2016 bill.
“We have grave concerns [the reproposed GIPSA Rule] will mirror the 2010 proposal,” Herring told the livestock panel. “If it does, the livestock industry will be fundamentally and negatively changed.”
Another potential challenge, said Herring, is an outbreak in the United States of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), which, if it occurred, would immediately stop U.S. meat exports. He called on Congress to appropriate funds to set up an FMD vaccine bank to deal with an outbreak.
Herring also reiterated NPPC’s support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, telling the subcommittee the benefits of TPP will exceed all past free trade agreements and represents a great opportunity for U.S. pork producers and for the entire U.S. economy.
The TPP, negotiations on which were initiated in late 2008 and concluded last October, is a regional trade deal that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which account for nearly 40 percent of global GDP. The countries combined have more than 800 million consumers.
“Because other Asia-Pacific trade agreements are being negotiated without the U.S.,” Herring testified, “the United States can’t afford either economically or geopolitically to walk away from the fastest growing region in the world. Congress must pass the TPP, and it must do so soon.”