Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) expressed their concerns regarding the Department of Justice-USDA competition workshops on agricultural competitiveness issues. In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the senators urged that workshops be balanced and reflect the wide array of producers and agribusiness in modern-day agriculture. The senators wrote, “As you begin your review, we caution you to embark on a balanced evaluation that, importantly, includes careful consideration of the unintended consequences of government intervention in the market. We are deeply concerned that the result of any review not stifle innovation and thereby create a one-size-fits-all marketplace in which all producers are treated the same regardless of economics or free market principles.”

Consumer Recall Notification — Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) has introduced the “Consumer Recall Notification Act,” which would make sure consumers and health workers are aware when food recalls are made. The legislation would require that notices be posted on food retailers’ shelves where recalled foods are sold, require that recall notices are sent directly to grocery store members and loyalty card users, and ensure that Class 1 recall information is distributed to health workers.

Pork Producers Want Mexican Truck Issue Resolved — The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is calling upon the administration to resolve a dispute with Mexico over allowing Mexican trucks into the United States. There are indications that if this issue is not resolved, Mexico will retaliate against U.S. products. Last March, the Mexican government imposed higher tariffs on an estimated $2.4 billion of U.S. goods after Congress failed to renew a pilot program that allowed a limited number of Mexican trucking companies to work beyond the 25-mile commercial zone established in the United States. In a letter to President Barack Obama, NPPC said, “We need to get this trucking issues resolved. Mexico is an important market for U.S. pork, which right now isn’t on the retaliation list, but it could be. More importantly, this needs to be resolved so our trading partners have assurance that the United States will live up to its trade obligations.” Mexico is the second-largest export market for U.S. pork. In 2009, the United States exported over 503,000 metric tons (554,463 U.S. tons) of pork with over $762 million to Mexico.

Groups Oppose User Fees for Meat & Poultry Inspection — A number of meat and poultry groups sent a letter to the leadership of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees and the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees stating their objections to the administration’s proposed user fees for meat, poultry and egg inspection. The groups stated, “Meat, poultry and egg products inspection is a public health and safety program required by federal law and has been funded through tax dollars for over a century.” The groups noted that these fees would be passed on to the consumer. These fees have been proposed in the past but have not been adopted by Congress. Those signing the letter included American Farm Bureau Federation, American Meat Institute, American Sheep Industry Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Farmers Union, National Meat Association, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation and United Egg Association.

Call to Eliminate Market Access program — The Republican Study Committee (RSC) Sunset Caucus is advocating the elimination of the Market Access Program (MAP). The RSC says the dollars spent on MAP are corporate welfare because the funding that goes to the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council has companies such as Butterball, Tyson, Wampler and Perdue. They also cite the U.S. Grains Council’s membership includes Monsanto. MAP funds consumer promotions, market research, trade shows and other programs to promote U.S. agricultural exports and was reauthorized in the 2008 farm bill.

Japan Beef Resolution — Senators Mike Johanns (R-NE) and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) have introduced a Sense of the Senate resolution (S. Res. 452) pressing Japan to lift its partial ban on U.S. beef. Senator Johanns said, “For too long, Japan has been grossly unfair in its treatment of U.S. beef and beef producers for reasons that defy scientific rationalization, even as the United States goes out of its way to treat Japanese products fairly.” The resolution sponsored by 24 senators states that Japan “should immediately expand market access for United States exporters of both bone-in and boneless beef” beyond the current standard of beef from cattle 20 months of age and younger. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association estimates that if Japan would allow beef from cattle 30 months of age or under, it would mean an additional $1 billion for the U.S. beef industry.

Michigan Meatout Day — Michigan Governor Jenifer Granholm has declared March 20 Michigan Meatout Day. The proclamation, signed by the governor, states, “Reducing the consumption of meat or not eating meat at all can significantly decrease the exposure to infectious pathogens such as salmonella, E. coli, and campylobacter, which take the lives of several thousand Americans and sicken millions more each year.” It also states, “I encourage the residents of this state to choose not to eat meat. Eating a healthy diet can be fun. Explore the different recipes that can be created by using fresh ingredients and by having a sense of adventure.” Press reports indicate that because of objections raised by Michigan meat producers and hunters, the governor plans to also declare March 20 as Michigan Agriculture Day to recognize the abundance of Michigan agricultural commodities.

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