The 2008 farm bill – the Farm, Nutrition and Bioenergy Act – approved last Wednesday by the House of Representatives contains numerous provisions beneficial to the U.S. pork industry, according to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

“Our goal going into the farm bill process was to maintain the competitiveness of the U.S. pork industry, which meant increasing funds for vital programs and keeping out any mischief,” explains NPPC President Bryan Black, a pork producer from Canal Winchester, OH. “We accomplished that goal, and the 2008 farm bill is good for producers.”

NPPC supported provisions that will:

  • Change the mandatory country-of-origin labeling law to include four new label categories for meat, including one to address Canadian feeder pigs by allowing flexibility in labeling to help producers and packers reduce sorting losses. The law was also relaxed for verifying an animal’s country of origin by permitting the use of existing records, such as business records, animal health papers and import or custom documents.
  • Require a study to look at the costs and impacts on pork producers and consumers of requiring packers to report wholesale pork cut prices and volumes.
  • Authorize a voluntary national trichinae certification program to certify that exported pork is trichinae-free to help expand pork export opportunities.
  • Approve a Sense of the Congress for the pseudorabies eradication program, recognizing the threat of feral swine to the domestic swine population and establishing continued support for the swine surveillance program.
  • Authorize the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence, which coordinates research, teaching and Extension for the pork industry on a national scale.
  • Authorize research grants to map the swine genome.
  • Authorize research and education grants to study antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including the movement of antibiotic-resistant bacteria into ground and surface water, and to study the judicious use of antibiotics in veterinary and human medicine.
  • Increase funds for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and make it easier for pork producers to qualify for the cost-share conservation program.
  • Increase funds for the Conservation Security Program to allow more acres to be enrolled, and restructure the program to provide conservation stewardship payments that encourage producers to follow additional conservation practices.
  • Permit the use of manure and manure biogas for advanced biofuel and renewable biomass production.
  • Provide incentives for expanding production of advanced biofuels made from agricultural and forestry crop-associated waste materials, including animal manure and livestock and food processing waste.
  • Give producers the right to cancel production contracts within three days of signing.
  • Allow producers when they sign a contract to opt out of using arbitration and instead use the courts to settle contract disputes.
  • Give producers the right to settle disputes involving production or marketing contracts in the federal district court in which production occurred.
  • Allow contracts between entities in different states to specify which state’s laws apply when disputes arise, unless the laws in the state in which production occurs take precedent.
  • Boost funding for the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development program.
  • Direct the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration to give Congress an annual report of the number and resolution of livestock cases brought under the Packers and Stockyards Act.
  • Allow interstate shipment of state-inspected meat and poultry from packing plants that have state inspection programs equal to the federal program.

Provisions of the bill that may have proven harmful, which NPPC opposed and kept out of the legislation included those that would have:

  • Banned packers from owning livestock.
  • Added some unnecessary costs and provisions to what could be included in a swine contract.
  • Established an Office of Special Counsel within the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate livestock competition issues, replacing the U.S. Department of Justice’s role in enforcing competition and antitrust matters.
  • Permitted hiring private attorneys to investigate and prosecute livestock competition cases rather than the U.S. government.
  • Eliminated as a defense against lawsuits over alleged unfair competition “justifiable business practice” for pork producers who make rational business decisions based on cost, quality and efficiency.
  • Required onerous on-farm food animal handling and production practices.

The farm bill also lowers the ethanol blender’s credit from 51 cents/gal. to 45 cents/gal. and extends the import tariff on ethanol to Dec. 31, 2010 from Dec. 31, 2009.

NPPC pointed out that extending the 54-cent import tariff on corn-based ethanol further inflates high feed costs affecting pork producers.

“NPPC supports ethanol production,” says NPPC’s Black. “But pork producers still have concerns about corn costs and availability, both of which are affected by ethanol production and about our ability to compete for corn on a level field with the subsidized ethanol industry.”

President Bush is expected to veto the bill because he says it excludes reforms to various farm programs and includes budgetary gimmicks and tax increases.