The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is asking USDA to help the U.S. pork industry deal with the negative effects of the H1N1 flu outbreak. NPPC indicates the flu outbreak has accelerated losses of $17.69 per hog marketed as of May 1. NPPC is asking USDA to:

  • “Implement a USDA purchase program for $50 million of pork products to help boost cash hog prices. Products can be put into federal emergency food programs, food pantries, senior/elderly feeding programs, hunger programs and other non-commercial food channels.
  • Urge President Obama to work with U.S. trading partners to remove all restrictions on exports of U.S. pork and pork products and to maintain U.S. pork export markets around the world.
  • Develop a comprehensive surveillance program for swine diseases, which will provide an early warning for emerging diseases that affect human and animal health.
  • Provide for mandatory premises and animal identification, which would be necessary for an effective surveillance program.
  • Work to keep open the border between the United States and Canada – in the wake of a report that pigs on a Canadian pork operation contracted the H1N1 flu from a worker – to allow hog movements.”
International Organizations Say Pork is Safe — The World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) released a joint statement stressing the safety of pork products and rejecting bans on pork imports from countries with human cases of H1N1 flu. The groups said: "In light of the spread of influenza A/H1N1, and the rising concerns about the possibility of this virus being found in pigs and the safety of pork and pork products, we stress that pork and pork products, handled in accordance with good hygienic practices recommended by the WHO, FAO, Codex Alimentarius Commission and the OIE, will not be a source of infection. To date there is no evidence that the virus is transmitted by food. There is currently therefore no justification in the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Standards Code for the imposition of trade measures on the importation of pigs or their products."

Animal ID Listening Sessions — USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will hold a series of listening sessions on the National Animal Identification System (NAIS). APHIS wants to hear stakeholders’ comments and concerns about “potential or feasible” solutions to create a program “producers can feel comfortable supporting.” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “USDA needs to hear directly from our stakeholders as we work together to create an animal disease traceability program we can all support.” The public meetings will be held: May 14 - Harrisburg, PA; May 18 – Pasco, WA; May 21 – Birmingham, AL; May 22 – Louisville, KY; May 27 – Storrs, CT; and June 1 – Greeley, CO. The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock and the House Homeland Subcommittee on Emerging Threats held a joint hearing to examine the identification system’s role in protecting U.S. producers and consumers from the effects of an animal disease outbreak.

Presidential Directive to Expand Access to Biofuels — President Barack Obama issued a presidential directive to USDA to aggressively accelerate the investment in and production of biofuels. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said, “Expanding our biofuels infrastructure provides a unique opportunity to spur rural economic development while reducing our dependence on foreign oil – one of the great challenges of the 21st century.” Items for USDA include:
  • Refinancing existing investments in renewable fuels to preserve jobs in ethanol and biodiesel plants, renewable electricity generation plants and other supporting industries; and
  • Making renewable energy financing opportunities from the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 available within 30 days. These opportunities include:
  • Loan guarantees for the development, construction, and retrofitting of commercial scale biorefineries and grants to help pay for the development and construction costs of demonstration-scale biorefineries;
  • Expedited funding to encourage biorefineries to replace the use of fossil fuels in plant operations by installing new biomass energy systems or producing new energy from renewable biomass;
  • Expedited funding to biofuels producers to encourage production of next-generation biofuels from biomass and other non-corn feedstocks;
  • Expansion of Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program, which has been renamed the Rural Energy for America Program, to include hydroelectric source technologies, energy audits, and higher loan guarantee limits; and
  • Guidance and support for collection, harvest, storage, and transportation assistance for eligible materials for use in biomass conversion facilities.
EPA Proposes RFS Rule — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed rule that would make regulatory changes to the current Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The proposal specifically looks to set a standard for greenhouse-gas reductions of renewable fuels compared to conventional gasoline. The proposed rule was required under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The proposal calls for renewable fuels to be defined into four new categories. The thresholds for the new categories would be 20% less greenhouse gas emissions for renewable fuels produced from new facilities, 50% less for biomass-based diesel and advanced biofuels and 60% less for cellulosic biofuels. EPA intends to hold public hearings and conduct peer reviews on the lifecycle analysis of the four renewable fuel categories. A 60-day comment period on the proposal will begin upon publication in the Federal Register.

Indirect Land Use/RFS Rule – Major Issue for Ag — One of the major issues in the proposed rule is that both direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from biofuels use, and the indirect impact of countries using land to grow the crops for the fuels, must be taken into account when assessing GHG emissions. In this process, biofuels are charged with emissions from indirect land use, while gasoline is not. Members of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research at a hearing let EPA and the administration know their strong displeasure with this new approach of having to consider indirect land use. Congressman Tim Holden (D-PA), chairman of the subcommittee, said, “We are very upset with the path EPA has taken us down and sent that message back loud and clear in today’s hearing. If we continue with these provisions in EISA, we will not only harm the biofuels industry, but also shortchange a large part of the country before we even get started. We need to expand the reach of biofuels, not hamper the farmer and forest owner.” Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), ranking Republican of the subcommittee said, “The arbitrary restrictions in the renewable fuel standard will limit the potential biomass to meet the renewable fuels mandate. I am in favor of the development of advanced renewable fuels, but more importantly, I am in favor of developing a policy that allows the market to develop next-generation renewable energy.”

Rural America Solutions Group — House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) announced the formation of the Republican’s “Rural America Solutions Group.” The purpose of the group is to focus on solutions that create jobs and economic opportunities as well as address the unique challenges rural communities face. Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK), ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee said, “Those who live and work in rural America are struggling to make a living in a difficult economy. It’s important that rural communities have a strong voice in Washington who know their struggles and are able to provide viable solutions.” Members of the GOP Rural Solutions Group include: Congressmen Lucas; Doc Hastings (R-WA); Sam Graves (R-MO); Rob Bishop (R-UT); Henry Brown (R-SC); Jason Chaffetz (R-UT); Mike Conway (R-TX); Steve King (R-IA); Tom Latham (R-IA); Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO); Cynthia Lummis (R-WY); Tom McClintock (R-CA); Adam Putnam (R-FL); George Radonovich (R-CA); Phil Roe (R-TN) and Adrian Smith (R-NE).

New GIPSA Administrator — Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced that J. Dudley Butler will serve as USDA’s administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA). Butler is from Mississippi and has been an attorney in private practice. He is a member of the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association and founding member of the Organization for Competitive Markets.

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