WASHINGTON, Sept. 28, 2016 - Like many other organizations, the National Pork Producers Council is gearing up for its farm bill push, and a pair of familiar issues are leading the way.

As Agri-Pulse has reported, the need for a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine bank is a likely topic of conversation when NPPC makes its farm bill requests. But a risk management component for pork producers could also make its way into NPPC’s wishes.

In a recent Agri-Pulse Open Mic interview, NPPC President John Weber said an expanded FMD vaccine bank would be NPPC’s “number-one ask” in its upcoming farm bill lobbying. Expanded ag research funding would also be a good thing from NPPC’s perspective, but Weber also mentioned the prospect of increased risk management opportunities for pork producers.  

“The last (farm bill), we had asked for (USDA’s Risk Management Agency) to look at some type of catastrophic insurance in case there would be a foreign animal disease outbreak,” he said. “We have had only one report back since that last farm bill, and there was a lot of misunderstanding there, so we are going to go back with that ask again.”

When considering what NPPC might push for in any upcoming discussions, it is helpful to consider what is already on the books. Some current USDA programs could provide some form of risk management to pork producers.

For starters, RMA’s Livestock Gross Margin (LGM) program “provides protection against the loss of gross margin” in swine production. The program uses the futures price in assessing margins, not the local price, and doesn’t cover for animal disease or death.

Also under the RMA umbrella, Livestock Risk Protection (LRP) provides price protection for producers. A fact sheet for the program says it “is designed to insure against declining market prices” and allows for producers to choose different coverage levels (between 70 and 100 percent of expected ending value) and insurance. Again, the program does not cover loss due to disease or death.

Aside from RMA programs, USDA also offers programs through the Farm Service Agency that could address some concerns about death loss and disease. The Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) was one of the first programs activated under the 2014 farm bill after livestock losses due to drought and blizzard. That program covers a wide array of animal species and loss due to “eligible adverse weather, eligible disease, and eligible attacks” by animals reintroduced by federal entities.

There’s also the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP) in the event of an emergency situation such as adverse weather, disease, water shortages, and wildfires. However, the program is only authorized to spend $20 million per fiscal year, and if the total national demand exceeds that figure, payments may start being reduced.

The very nature of the pork industry may also play a role in what NPPC will pursue. Since contract growers do most of the pork production in the U.S., there’s a question as to who would get paid in a scenario in which payments are disbursed. It’s a situation that USDA dealt with earlier this year when issuing a final rule for payments from the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak in the poultry industry.

A spokesman told Agri-Pulse that NPPC is having internal discussions on the matter, but said a potential risk management push is “simply one of the issues our soon-to-be formed Farm Bill Task Force will consider.” Weber told Agri-Pulse that the task force will be announced at NPPC’s November board meeting.


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