Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stated this week that U.S. pork is safe as he addressed the growing global concern over the outbreak of H1N1 flu in Mexico. Secretary Vilsack said, “I want to reiterate that U.S. pork is safe. While we in the U.S. are continuing to monitor for new cases of H1N1 flu, the American food supply is safe. There is no evidence or reports that U.S. swine have been infected with this virus. USDA is reminding its trading partners that U.S. pork and pork products are safe and there is no basis for restricting imports of commercially produced U.S. pork and pork products. This is not an animal health or food safety issue. This discovery of the H1N1 flu virus is in humans. Any trade restrictions would be inconsistent with World Organization for Animal Health (Office of International Epizootics [OIE]) guidelines. According to OIE, because the current H1N1 flu-related human health event has been described as swine influenza, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) announced that there has been no infection in animals confirmed in the zones where cases of human infection have been detected. Therefore, it is not necessary to introduce specific measures for international trade in swine or their products, nor are consumers of pork products at risk of infection.” A number of congressional hearings were held this week concerning the flu outbreak in Mexico.

Countries Stop Importing U.S. Pork — The World Animal Health Organization (OIE) in a statement said, “Given there is no case of infection in animals confirmed in the zones where cases of human infection have been detected, it is not necessary to introduce specific measures for international trade in swine or their products nor to consider that consumers of pork products are at risk of infection.” However, a number of countries have placed restrictions on imports of pork from the United States or from certain states. Those countries include Russia, China, Ecuador, Honduras, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Indonesia, Ukraine, Philippines, and Thailand. The administration is urging all trading partners to base any food safety measures taken on scientific evidence in accordance with their international obligations. U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk said, ‘Restrictions on U.S. pork or pork products or any meat products from the United States resulting from the recent outbreak do not appear to be based on scientific evidence and may result in serious trade disruptions without cause. To our trading partners, I would say again that our pork and pork products are safe.” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack continues efforts to keep markets open and reopen markets for U.S. pork.

Canada to Pursue WTO Case Against COOL — Canada is proceeding with a WTO complaint against the United States over mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) on Canadian meat products exported to the United States. Indications are that Canadian pork exports to the United States have declined by over 40% this year and cattle exports have fallen by 25%. Canadian officials have indicated that when USDA first announced the COOL regulations, there was flexibility that addressed Canada’s concerns. However, with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking the meat industry to voluntarily incorporate stricter COOL requirements, this is causing uncertainty for Canadian producers and Canada wants the administration to clarify its position.

2009 County Loan Rates — USDA announced county 2009 loan rates for wheat, corn, grain sorghum, barley, oats, soybeans and other oilseeds (sunflower seed, flaxseed, canola, rapeseed, safflower, mustard seed, crambe and sesame seed). Loan rates per bushel are: wheat, $2.75; corn, $1.95; grain sorghum, $1.95; barley, $1.85; oats, $1.33; and soybeans, $5.00.

More USDA Nominations — President Barack Obama has announced his intent to nominate Edward M. Avalos as under secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. Avalos has spent 29 years at the New Mexico Department of Agriculture and also worked at the Texas Department of Agriculture. Pearlie Reed was nominated as assistant secretary of administration. Reed served as USDA’s chief of the Natural Resources and Conservation Services (NRCS) from 1998 to 2002. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the appointment of Doug Caruso as administrator of the United States Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA). Caruso was the state FSA executive director in Wisconsin from 1993-2001.

Senate Democrats Gain One — Senator Arlen Specter announced that he is switching political parties and joining the Democrats, which now gives the Democrats 59 seats. Specter is in his fifth term. Democrats are hoping the Minnesota Senate race is finalized soon to give them 60 seats with the election of Al Franken, which will make it much easier for them to deal with filibusters.

P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.