Administration Appeal of Damaging Court Ruling is Immediate Focus
The urgent administration appeal of a recent federal district court ruling striking down faster harvest facility line speeds, legal action on California’s Proposition 12 and expanded export market access are among top U.S. pork producer priorities at this week’s World Pork Expo. Hosted by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), World Pork Expo is the world’s largest pork-specific trade show.
“After a two-year absence, we’re thrilled for the return of Work Pork Expo, showcasing the latest developments in the U.S. pork industry,” said NPPC President Jen Sorenson, communications director of Iowa Select Farms in West Des Moines, Iowa. “U.S. pork producers have a number of near-term challenges and priorities, including a federal court ruling that, if implemented later this month, will cause tremendous harm to hog farmers across the country. We need the Biden administration to quickly intervene and prevent this disastrous scenario from becoming reality.”
The federal court’s decision—which takes effect on June 29—struck down a provision of USDA’s New Swine Inspection System (NSIS) allowing for faster harvest facility line speeds. NSIS, initiated during the Clinton administration and evaluated at five pilot plants over 20 years, was approved for industry-wide adoption in 2019. NSIS modernized an inspection system that had remained unchanged for more than 50 years. At a time when the United States is seeking to increase much-needed pork harvest capacity, the court order will reduce plant capacity at six plants running at NSIS line speeds by as much as 25 percent. Smaller hog farmers will disproportionately bear the brunt of the court’s impact, undermining pork industry competition.
Last week, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Reps. Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) initiated letters—currently circulating for additional congressional signatories—to the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Justice, urgently requesting the administration appeal the ruling to prevent the tremendous financial harm to American hog farmers.
Additionally, NPPC is challenging California’s Proposition 12. Set to go into effect next year, it will impose arbitrary animal housing standards that reach far outside the state’s borders to farms across the country, while driving up costs for both pork producers and consumers. NPPC and the American Farm Bureau Federation have filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, asking the court to strike down Proposition 12 as unconstitutional under the dormant commerce clause. Oral arguments were held in mid-April and a court ruling is anticipated by mid-summer.
Compliance with Proposition 12 will cost individual farmers millions. The ones least able to bear that cost will be small family farms. Loss of this market will put many hog farmers out of business, ultimately leading to further industry consolidation. Despite requiring final implementation rules by Sept. 1, 2019, just two weeks ago the state issued its proposed rules. NPPC plans to file comments by the July 12 deadline.
Other near-term priorities for U.S. pork producers include:
Expanding export markets, crucial to the success of the U.S. pork industry. NPPC is focused on more immediate export opportunities in the Philippines and Vietnam, major pork-consuming nations dealing with African swine fever outbreaks in their domestic herds;
Addressing agriculture labor reform. Current agriculture visa programs are designed for seasonal agriculture and do not meet the needs of pork production and other livestock agriculture. NPPC is urging Congress to address labor reform that both opens the H-2A visa program to year-round labor, without a cap, and provides legal status for agricultural workers already in the country; and
Continuing to advocate for measures to ensure foreign agriculture diseases remain outside the country. NPPC is requesting congressional appropriations to strengthen biosecurity defense at our borders.