Twenty-four Senators and 63 Congressmen wrote Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack urging USDA to take several actions to provide emergency relief to the U.S. pork industry. Actions requested were:

• “Purchase an additional $100 million, from Section 32 funds, of pork for various federal food programs with a maximum emphasis on purchasing meat from sows with the objective to reduce breeding stock to reduce hog numbers.

• “Work with appropriate federal agencies to help address swine disease surveillance on farms, related diagnostic and vaccine development, and swine industry support.

• “Work with the U.S. Trade Representative to open export markets to U.S. pork, particularly China, which continues to impose non-science-based restrictions on U.S. pork since the outbreak of H1N1 (influenza). In 2008, China was the second largest volume market for U.S. pork exports, accounting for nearly 20% of total U.S. pork exports. Given the severely depressed state of the U.S. pork industry, resuming pork exports to China would give producers around the country a much-needed economic boost.” The members reminded Secretary Vilsack that since September 2007, the U.S. pork industry has lost $4.6 billion in equity, with producers losing an average of more than $21/head marketed. The letters were organized by Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Richard Burr (R-NC) and Congressmen Tim Walz (D-MN) and Steve King (R-IA).

Canada Calls for WTO Panel on COOL — Canada is requesting a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel on U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL). The Canadian government said that COOL is causing difficulty in Canada’s ability to export cattle and hogs to the United States. In a statement the Canadian government said: “That is why our government has no choice but to request a WTO panel. This request demonstrates our ongoing commitment to resolving this issue and defending the interests of Canadian producers. Canadian farmers and ranchers produce top-quality food, and they are facing unfair discrimination because of COOL legislation.” Responding to the Canadian announcement and defending COOL, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said, “We regret that formal consultations have not been successful in resolving Canada's concerns over country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) required by the 2008 Farm Bill for certain agricultural products. We believe that our implementation of COOL provides information to consumers in a manner consistent with our World Trade Organization commitments. Countries have agreed since long before the existence of the WTO that country-of-origin labeling is a legitimate policy. It is common for other countries to require that goods be labeled as to their origin. We hope to continue to work with Canada to resolve this issue amicably." The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) in a statement said, “Canada’s decision to move forward with their complaint against U.S. COOL regulations is unfortunate, due to the potential retaliatory action that could be taken against U.S. beef. Since COOL was first proposed, we’ve continued to have concerns about its potential implications on our relationship with our top two trading partners – not to mention its impact on domestic feeder cattle markets at our borders to the north and south. The U.S. imports adds value to Mexican and Canadian livestock through our feedlots, processing and infrastructure; and, we export this value-added finished product back to Mexican and Canadian consumers. Any disruptions to either of these markets will have a significant economic impact on our industry. Unfortunately, it’s becoming clear that COOL has damaged these critically important trading relationships, and is not putting any additional money into the pockets of cattlemen.”

A Call to End Corn-based Ethanol Tax Credit — A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study recommended that Congress consider ending the federal 45-cent-a-gallon domestic ethanol tax credit. GAO reported unless crude oil prices rise significantly, the credit does little to stimulate ethanol production and that the “corn ethanol industry is already mature and well understood.” The Renewable Fuels Association said, “As long as petroleum and fossil fuel companies that dominate the energy market continue to receive preferential tax treatment and hidden subsidies, incentives are needed to develop renewable alternatives such as ethanol.” The report was requested by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

Meatless Mondays at Baltimore Schools — The Baltimore City Public Schools has decided not to serve meat on Mondays. The chairman of Monday Campaigns said the Meatless Monday campaign has become a growing international movement of individuals, organizations and communities “committed to cutting out meat one day a week for their health and the health of the planet.” The American Meat Institute (AMI) said, “The U.S. Dietary Guidelines have affirmed time and again that meat is an important part of a balanced diet because it contains vital amino acids and nutrients that are essential for the growing bodies of young adults.” There are 80,000 students in the Baltimore City Public Schools.

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