Since 2000, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) has governed the important trading relationship between the United States and 32 countries on the African continent. This agreement offers eligible African countries with duty-free access to the American economy for more than 1,800 goods and products with the mutual understanding that these countries would equally reduce trade barriers for American goods to enter and be sold in African markets. Recognizing the economic impact of this legislation for both the United States and African nations, Congress reauthorized AGOA in 2015 and extended this pact through 2025, when it will once again be reviewed and improved. 

However, every trade agreement requires strict enforcement of its terms, and unfortunately, South Africa has failed to live up to its commitments under AGOA by directly targeting American pork exports and our hog farmers. For years, South Africa has unlawfully restricted access for U.S. pork products based on unscientific and baseless claims. These limitations create needless uncertainty for hog farmers and prevent South Africans from consuming nutritious and affordable American pork while South African businesses and farmers enjoy preferential access to American markets. It’s unfair and a complete violation of the terms of AGOA. 

The ramifications of these decisions particularly impact Iowa and North Carolina – our home states – where pork production ranks first and second, respectively, nationwide. According to the National Pork Producers Council, the pork industry supports more than 600,000 American jobs and generates tens of billions of dollars in economic output and personal incomes – delivering financial gains throughout the pork supply chain, including to farmers, meat processors, and small retailers and grocers. In 2023, the United States also produced more than 27 billion pounds of pork, accounting for approximately 11% of global production – cementing our nation’s status as the third largest pork producer in the world. Of that 27 billion, nearly 30% was exported – a record for the American pork industry – which contributed an additional $65 of value to the price of a hog. 

Right now, South Africa’s restrictions on American pork sales are only adding fuel to a dangerous fire. Our hog farmers are currently facing their worst two-year period since 1999, when hog prices collapsed, saddling our producers with devastating financial losses and forcing some to close for good. Last year, thanks to inflation, high input costs, and more expensive energy prices, hog farmers lost, on average, $32 for every hog sold – a recipe for economic catastrophe and production consolidation. Meanwhile, California’s Proposition 12 took effect on Jan. 1, adding another hurdle for hog farmers to jump over to keep their operations afloat.   

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That’s why, in addition to calling for the full repeal of California’s costly and bureaucratic Prop 12 mandates on Iowa and North Carolina hog farmers, we recently sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai urging the Biden administration to hold South Africa not only accountable to its obligations under AGOA but also to American hog farmers and their families.

In our letter, we ask that U.S. pork exports receive fair treatment in the South African market and further encourage USTR to use every tool at its disposal to enforce the clear provisions of AGOA. South Africa cannot use its own faulty “scientific” standards to prevent American pork from being sold, and it is vital that the Biden administration make that crystal clear in bilateral discussions. 

Pork production is an important economic engine for our rural communities and the American economy. This industry creates good jobs, feeds families, and represents a vital component of American agriculture. As members of the House Ways and Means Committee and representing the top pork-producing states in the country, we will continue to advocate for our hog farmers, demand strict enforcement of our trade laws, develop new export opportunities for U.S. pork, and ensure that the Biden administration upholds its commitment to our producers on the global stage.

Rep. Randy Feenstra represents Iowa’s 4th District, serving on both the Ways and Means, and Agriculture committees.

Rep. Gregory F. Murphy, M.D. is serving his third term in Congress, representing North Carolina’s 3rd District. He serves on the Ways and Means Committee as well as the Veterans Affairs, and House Administration committees.