The Mexican government has added pork to the list of U.S. products against which it is retaliating for the failure of the United States to live up to its obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to let Mexican trucks haul goods into the United States. The tariff rate on ham and shoulder cuts is 5% and on cooked skin pellets it is 20%. The new list also includes certain types of U.S. cheese, pistachios and a range of U.S. fruits and vegetables. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said, “We are extremely disappointed that our top-volume export market has taken this action, but we’re more disappointed that the United States is not living up to its trade obligations. That failure not only has hurt dozens of U.S. industries economically, but it could prompt other countries to think twice about entering into trade deals with the United States. Our trading partners need assurance that the United States will live up to its trade obligations.” In March 2009, Congress failed to renew a pilot program that allowed a limited number of Mexican trucks to haul freight into the United States beyond a 25-mile commercial zone. In February 2001, a NAFTA dispute-settlement panel ruled that excluding Mexican trucks violated U.S. obligations under the trade deal. The ruling gave Mexico the right to retaliate against U.S. products, which it did in March 2009, placing higher tariffs on more than $2.4 billion of U.S. goods. The new list will raise the total estimated cost of the tariffs to $2.6 billion.

Senators Support Proposed GIPSA Rule — A group of 21 senators have written Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack expressing their support for USDA’s proposed Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) rule regarding livestock and poultry marketing practices. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), originator of the letter, said, “Our action in the 2008 farm bill, along with this proposed rule, are designed to make clearer the protections and the prohibited actions under the Packers and Stockyards Act so that producers and growers receive fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory treatment in marketing and contracting arrangements involving livestock and poultry.”

Senators Question Objectivity on GIPSA Rule — Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) have written Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stating their concerns about the objectivity of USDA’s actions regarding the proposed GIPSA rule. The senators said, “Our nation’s livestock industry is critical to the success of rural America and a positive contributor to our national balance of trade. As the administration moves forward with regulations affecting all participants in the industry, it is vital they do so in an open, unbiased and deliberative process.” The letter focuses on “press reports” of a USDA employee who used their government e-mail account to pass along a message from an interest group soliciting attendance at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Department of Justice livestock competition workshop Aug. 27 in Ft. Collins, CO. The senators had requested information concerning who received the e-mail, content of subsequent e-mail messages, and all solicitations or position statements from any USDA employee regarding the workshop. The senators had asked for a “description” of how the administration would ensure the Ft. Collins competition workshop would be “conducted in a fair and unbiased manner.”

Recess Appointment for Food Safety Under Secretary — President Barrack Obama has announced his intent to recess appoint Elisabeth Hagen as USDA’s under secretary for food safety. Hagen’s nomination had been held up in the Senate. Thus, the President decided to use his authority for recess appointment. Dr. Hagen served as the USDA’s chief medical officer prior to the appointment. Previously, she was a senior executive at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

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