The House this week approved legislation sponsored by Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott (D-GA) that extends for one year the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act (LMRA), which requires meatpackers to report to USDA the prices they pay for cattle, hogs and lambs and other information. USDA uses the data to publish twice-daily reports with information on pricing, contracting for purchase, supply and demand conditions for livestock, livestock production and livestock product values. The bill now moves for consideration to the Senate, where changes to cattle markets have become a prerequisite for some senators to support long-term LMRA reauthorization, making passage of even a one-year extension uncertain at best. NPPC has been urging congressional lawmakers for more than a year to reauthorize the LMRA, which expired Sept. 30, 2020, but got several short-term extensions – the latest until Feb. 18, 2022 – and to make several changes to the law. Among those, NPPC wants:

USDA employees who administer the LMRA program to be deemed “essential” for purposes of a government shutdown.
New meatpackers to begin LMRA reporting within six months of starting operations.
Price discounts as well as premiums to be reported.
Wholesale cuts to be reported.
Swine and pork market formula purchases to be reported separately.
NPPC’s efforts over the past few years to gain better access to the Philippines market are paying off “bigly” for U.S. pork producers. According to data released this week, U.S. pork exports to the Pacific island nation in 2021 through October were nearly $194 million compared with just under $94 million for the same period last year, a 106.5 percent increase. Most of the surge in exports has come since May, when the Philippine government expanded the country’s Minimum Access Volume (MAV) quota for imported pork and reduced tariffs under the quota from 30 percent to 5 percent for the first three months and to 10 percent for the next nine. Tariffs for imported pork above the MAV were reduced for a year from 40 percent to 15 percent for the first three months and to 20 percent thereafter. In October, the government permitted distribution of pork outside the metropolitan areas of Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite and allowed pork sales to processors and institutional buyers, not just retailers. Securing better market access to the Philippines, a major pork-consuming country, has been a top, long-term trade priority for NPPC, which continues to work with the government in Manila and with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to make the tariff reductions permanent.

The “Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021,” which addresses many of the issues causing problems at the country’s shipping ports, passed the House Wednesday on a vote of 364-60. Timing for Senate action on the bill is uncertain. Among other provisions, the legislation:

Establishes as part of the mission of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) promoting reciprocal trade to boost U.S. exports.
Requires ocean carriers to adhere to minimum service standards that meet the public interest, reflecting best practices in the global shipping industry.
Authorizes the FMC to initiate investigations of ocean common carriers’ business practices and apply enforcement measures, as appropriate.
Requires ocean carriers or marine terminal operators to certify, or face penalties, that late fees – known as detention and demurrage – charged for shipping containers’ time in port and extended usage must comply with federal regulations.
Shifts the burden of proof regarding the reasonableness of detention and demurrage charges from the invoiced party to the ocean carrier or marine terminal operator.
Prohibits ocean carriers from “unreasonably” declining – as determined by the FMC in new required rulemaking – to take shipments of U.S. exports.
Requires ocean carriers to report each calendar quarter to the FMC total import and export tonnage and 20-foot equivalent units (loaded and empty) for each vessel making port in the United States.
NPPC, a strong supporter of the House bill introduced by Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD), in June testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in favor of the legislation and about the impact on pork producers of shipping delays. The Senate Committee on Science, Commerce, and Transportation this week also held a hearing on the ports issues, which are major contributors to the nation’s current supply chain problems.

USDA this week announced it is making available $1 billion in loan guarantees for improving food and agriculture, including meat and poultry, supply chains and expanding processing capacity. Under the Food Supply Chain Guaranteed Loan Program, guarantees will be given to lenders to facilitate financing for qualified borrowers and projects for the startup or expansion of activities related to aggregating, processing, manufacturing, storing, transporting, wholesaling and distributing food. (Loans would be backed by the federal government, which would cover a borrower’s debt obligation in case of default.) At least 19 percent of such loans need to be made to meatpackers, which to be eligible must be subject to USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service inspections. State-inspected packing plants would not be eligible. For more information, click here.

With a continuing lack of available labor plaguing hog operations around the country, NPPC this week again pressed the U.S. State Department to reform the process for securing TN visas, which are widely used to fill hog farm jobs. Created under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the visa allows Canadian and Mexican professionals to temporarily fill specific job openings in the United States. In a memo sent Tuesday to the State Department, NPPC detailed some of the processing issues pork producers are hearing from workers they have tried to hire under TN visas, including applicants from Mexico being denied entry into the country for no cause and with no ability to appeal such decisions. Other evidence suggests applicants have been rejected because of subjective interpretations of having “sufficient ties” to their home country and about their intent to return to it. (In one case, a veterinarian with a clinic in Mexico was denied a TN visa and told the decision was final.) There also are inconsistencies in the processes among U.S. consulates in Mexico – where TN visa seekers must apply – and between details on visas and the I-94 forms that accompany them, including the length of stay for the visa holder. In October, NPPC submitted written comments on problems with TN visas, calling on immigration officials to establish a better system for considering and adjudicating applications, and in November met with State Department officials about the issues.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) this week awarded more than $16 million to 64 projects with states, universities and other partners to strengthen programs to protect the health of animals, including from foreign animal diseases. The projects are focused on enhancing vaccine distribution plans, supporting animal movement decisions during animal disease outbreaks, delivering outreach and education on animal disease prevention and preparedness and developing diagnostic tests to rapidly detect foreign animal diseases. There also are projects to enhance early detection of animal diseases and improve emergency response capabilities at veterinary diagnostic laboratories that are part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN). NPPC supported the funding, which was authorized through the 2018 Farm Bill, to help prevent animal pests and diseases from entering the United States and to reduce the spread and impact of potential disease outbreaks, with the goal of protecting and expanding U.S. agricultural export market opportunities. APHIS is providing $7.6 million for projects under the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP), $4.4 million through the NAHLN and $4.3 million for joint NADPRP-NAHLN projects.

NPPC’s fourth annual national “Give-A-Ham” challenge to benefit food banks and pantries around the country is in its final few weeks, and the organization is urging pork producers to participate in it. The campaign in 2020 saw more than 15 million pounds of pork donated to help those in need.

NPPC is accepting applications for the 2022 Lois Britt Memorial Pork Industry Scholarship, which is sponsored by CME Group and managed and administered by NPPC. The program, introduced in 1990 by CME Group and NPPC and named in 2006 in honor of the late-NPPC board member Lois Britt, awards $2,500 scholarships annually to 10 college students who intend to pursue a career in the pork industry. All entries must be sent by Jan. 3, 2022, to be accepted. (Click here for more information, including where to submit applications.