USDA has released its Wholesale Pork Price Reporting Analysis as required by the 2008 farm bill. USDA was directed to conduct a study on the effects of requiring packer processing plants to report information on wholesale pork cuts, including price and volume. The scope of the study included:

1) Identifying problems with current pork price reporting;

2) Determining how changes in pork processing and trade are affecting pork price reporting;

3) Assessing the extent that mandatory price reporting would reduce pork price reporting problems; and

4) Identifying potential benefits and costs of moving to a mandated pork price reporting system. The authors of the report said, “Wholesale pork price reporting is thin and suffers from frequent missing or unreportable price quotes for subprimals and the frequency has worsened over time. Missing or unreportable price quotes are mostly associated with changes over time in the way pork is traded.” The report indicated that moving to mandatory price reporting has some support at every segment of the industry – producers, packers, processors, retailer, and foodservice. Some of the implications cited in the report concerning mandatory wholesale pork price reporting were:

• Mandatory wholesale pork price reporting would likely reduce the number of missing daily pork subprimal product price quotes, unless confidentiality clauses became problematic precluding publication of specific prices.

• Mandatory wholesale pork price reporting would reduce concerns about potential selective price reporting.

• Mandatory wholesale pork price reporting would encourage more industry participants to use weighted-average prices in formula trade instead of market top prices, as is the current practice with a majority of pork trade.

• Mandatory wholesale pork price reporting would increase price information to small market participants more than it would to large volume market participants. However, large firms tend to have a comparative advantage in data analyses, making them more able to analyze and utilize additional published data that might come with mandated price reporting. Mandatory price reporting legislation expires on Sept. 30.

Veterinary Feed Directive — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) to solicit public comments regarding potential changes to its current regulation relating to veterinary feed directive (VFD) drugs. VFD regulation, which went into effect on Jan. 8, 2001, established requirements relating to the distribution and use of VFD drugs and animal feeds containing such drugs. FDA would like comments from the public on how to improve the efficiency and make the regulation more workable. These public comments will help FDA determine whether the agency will propose a rule concerning VFD.

USDA Reports Crop Planting Intentions — USDA’s Prospective Plantings report indicates that U.S. farmers plan to plant a record 78.1 million acres in soybeans for 2010 – a 1% increase over last year’s previous record. The largest soybean acreage increases are expected in Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. USDA is estimating corn acres at 88.8 million acres, which represents a 3% increase over last year. This will be the second-largest area planted in corn since 1947. States expected to see increases in corn acreage are Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Ohio. Cotton acres for 2010 are estimated at 10.5 million acres, 15% higher than last year. Wheat acreage is estimated to decline 9% to 53.8 million acres. This is the smallest total area since 1970.

Vilsack to Visit Japan — Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will be in Japan April 5-9 to promote U.S. agricultural exports. He will meet with the Japanese Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, U.S. exporters, and Japanese importers. Prior to the trip, he stated: “We are determined to increase export opportunities for our farmers and ranchers. My mission on this trip will be to continue to push hard to open markets and to bolster an open, rules-based international trading system that will benefit both consumers and our farmers and ranchers who supply agricultural products around the world.”

USTR Appointments — President Barack Obama used his recess appointments authority to appoint Issi Siddiqui as U.S. Trade Representatives’ (USTR) chief agricultural trade negotiator and Michael Punke as deputy U.S. Trade Representative. Siddiqui and Punke’s nominations had been in limbo because of holds placed on them by Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY). The AGTrade Coalition had written the Senate leadership on Jan. 21, expressing “deep concern” about the delays in their Senate confirmation. The agricultural community has strongly felt that with the various trade issues facing agriculture and the on going WTO negotiations, it was important that these nominees be confirmed. Siddiqui served as vice president for Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America. Previously, he served as under secretary of Agriculture for marketing and regulatory programs and senior trade advisor to Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman. Punke had worked on the staff of the Senate Finance Committee.

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