WASHINGTON, Sept. 23, 2015 - The National Pork Producers Council held its annual Washington fly-in last week and about 130 participants spent lots of time talking about acronyms like COOL, WOTUS, DGAC, and TPP.
In a meeting with reporters, NPPC President Ron Prestage said the group’s primary talking points with legislators were country-of-origin labeling; EPA’s Clean Water Rule – also known as Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS; reauthorization of mandatory price reporting; and the upcoming guidelines based on recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.
While NPPC was in Washington, trade negotiators from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico were before the World Trade Organization to argue about retaliatory tariffs as a result of the COOL trade dispute. In May, the WTO confirmed previous rulings that the U.S. COOL rule for meat accorded unfair treatment to Canadian and Mexican livestock, and now the rule has become a legislative battleground in the Senate.
Prestage said there’s nothing to discuss legislatively on COOL – the only acceptable action is full repeal.
“There’s unfortunately some misconception on the part of some members of Congress . . . in the Senate that there is some fix that Congress can do short of full repeal that would avoid retaliation,” he said. “That is not true.”
“We believe that the WTO will rule on the retaliation by late November, and so the clock is ticking. If Congress doesn’t do what they need to do and just repeal (COOL), there’s going to be blood on the floor because pork producers are going to be retaliated against.”
Nick Giordano, NPPC’s vice president for global government affairs, said some lawmakers expressed skepticism during the visits that the retaliation threats were real. One senator – whom he did not identify – went as far as to guarantee retaliation wouldn’t happen. Giordano said in assuming the retaliatory threats are hollow, the lawmakers are playing “Russian roulette with our livelihoods.”
On other issues:
- While NPPC is one of many organizations currently involved in litigation against the WOTUS rule, NPPC Chief Environmental Counsel Michael Formica said he “remain(s) hopeful” that Congress will still invalidate the rule either through appropriations action or a standalone bill.
- Prestage expressed displeasure with the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s scientific report, which recommended sustainability concerns factor into dietary considerations and did not list lean meat as part of a healthy diet. He said members made clear in the congressional visits that it was a “no brainer” that lean meat should be in a diet, and said he wants Congress “to be aware of the fact that we don’t appreciate the vegan agenda being forced on our children.”
- Prestage said there wasn’t necessarily any angst against mandatory price reporting, but there was resistance to making the service essential in the event of a government shutdown. He said a “slippery slope” argument was used, with opponents wondering what other programs could be viewed as essential. On Monday night, the Senate passed H.R. 2051, which included a five-year reauthorization of MPR, but failed to label the program essential. The bill now goes back to the House for final passage.
- Giordano said he anticipates discussions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which he said has the potential to be “the single most important economic opportunity ever for our producers,” will close before the end of 2015, saying negotiators are “really close.” He said the talks “are going the right way on pork, but we don’t have a final deal.” The group has been pressing for more access for pork products, especially in the Japanese market.
For more news, go to www.agri-pulse.com