WASHINGTON, Sept. 19, 2016 - Have a great National Farm
Safety and Health Week! The Obama Administration is more active than ever in
promoting the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, but the
president took time to officially declareSept. 18 through 24 as the week
to honor American farmers and call attention to the often dangerous jobs they
“The best farmers in the world have enriched our nation and driven our agriculture sector forward; it is our shared duty to ensure their health and safety, because we all have a stake in the well-being of those who provide us with food and energy,” President Barack Obama said in the proclamation.
Meanwhile, the Administration continues to press forward in its efforts to convince Congress to ratify the 12-nation TPP. Obama gathered a group of trade advocates like Ohio Governor John Kasich, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards and IBM CEO Ginni Rometty to the White House Friday to discuss the proposed trade deal.
A constant theme from the Administration and other TPP supporters is that the deal is needed so the U.S. doesn’t lose a key leadership role in the Pacific Rim to China. Obama doubled down on that message in a statement issued Friday: “Right now, China is pushing hard to create their own trading regime out in Asia. And I promise you that China is not going to be setting up a bunch of rules that are going to be to the advantage of American companies and American businesses. If we are not in there and making sure that fair trade is established in the Asia market we're going to be cut out.”
TPP push continues this week. The TPP campaign continues Monday and Tuesday in the Lone Star state. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman is flying to Houston today and then on to Dallas where he will be collaborating with former U.S. Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III, former USTR Susan Schwab and others to laud the benefits of the trade pact.
Meanwhile USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse will be doing their parts to promote TPP on Friday at the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) annual meeting in Omaha, Neb.
Tuesday hearing promises debate over consolidation. Recently proposed mergers like Bayer’s buyout of Monsanto and the union of fertilizer companies Agrium and the Potash Corporation have some farm groups and lawmakers worried there will be negative effects for farmers. One sceptic is Sen. Charles Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee and he’ll be holding a hearing on consolidation Tuesday.
“Iowa farmers are concerned about rising input prices in a struggling agriculture economy that doesn’t look to be turning around anytime soon,” Grassley said in a recent statement. “Commodity prices are already at or below the cost of production. The consolidation trend we’re seeing in the seed and agrochemical industries has all of us concerned that less competition will mean increased prices for seeds, chemicals and fertilizers for farmers. “
FMD vaccine bank likely part of NPPC farm bill push. The National Pork Producers Council’s long-held belief that more should be done to prepare the U.S. for an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) could be part of the group’s priorities for the next farm bill. NPPC President John Weber told a gathering of reporters at NPPC’s Washington office that the country’s preparation for a potential FMD outbreak is “woefully inadequate,” and that a push for a vaccine bank in the farm bill is not set in stone, but it’s “more than likely.”
NPPC says the infrastructure is needed to distribute a massive amount of vaccines in the event of an outbreak including preparing to fight all strains circulating around the globe. Weber says they’ve heard about potentially as many as 23 FMD strains worldwide, but only seven strains are kept at reserve at USDA’s Plum Island Animal Disease Center.
Right now, it looks like NPPC’s message is being well received on Capitol Hill; Weber said their members observed “little or no opposition” during Hill visits this week. Liz Wagstrom, NPPC’s chief veterinarian, said USDA is also “very supportive” and realizes the need “to have the type of bank we’re asking for and the amount of doses we’re asking for.” However, she says the scale of bank NPPC wants “cannot come out of existing veterinary services budget. That’s why we’re kind of building momentum to start looking at the farm bill because it’s not an insignificant amount of money.” NPPC is pushing for an authorization of mandatory funding up to $150 million.
NPPC CEO Neil Dierks said the “dose of reality” provided by the outbreak of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus in 2013 would pale in comparison to what an FMD outbreak would do to animal agriculture from the angle of food safety, animal health, and trade.
“People are starting to get a perspective of what this impact would be,” he said.
For more on NPPC’s Weber’s outlook, listen to our new Agri-Pulse Open Mic interview by clicking here.
He said it: “I … urge Americans to honor our agricultural heritage and express appreciation to our farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers for their contributions to our Nation.” That was President Barack Obama in his proclamation for National Farm Safety and Health Week.
Spencer Chase contributed to this report.
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