Correcting A Critic from the North

A critic across our northern border continues to circulate inaccurate information about efforts to bring financial relief to US pork producers. HOTH thought it time to set the record straight.

U.S. hog farmers are an independent bunch, preferring to compete through hard work and innovation, allowing the free market to determine winners and losers. Unfortunately, unprecedented economic harm – brought on by a sustained period of trade retaliation against U.S. pork and the impact of COVID – threatened to put many producers out of business. Over the last five years, the National Pork Producers Council aggressively advocated on these issues to federal government officials and delivered relief that helped the U.S. pork industry weather these storms. These are the facts:

  • The USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP versions I and II) has paid out nearly $1.2 billion to U.S. hog farmers to date. Based on the structure of the program, most of these payments went to smaller pork producers who most needed the assistance. Regarding a third round of CFAP payments, announced in the final days of the Trump administration, Ag Secretary Vilsack recently said, “We’ll target future assistance, rather than top-up or across-the-board actions that don’t account for actual losses or payments that have already been received.” Accordingly, Secretary Vilsack announced $50 million in funding to develop a program specifically to assist small pork producers who relied primarily on spot transactions and negotiated prices during the pandemic. Additionally, he announced that USDA was looking to similarly help small producers who have been negatively impacted by the New Swine Inspection System line speed court ruling. Additional details are expected later this summer.
  • For much of the previous administration, the U.S. pork industry was at the tip of the trade retaliation spear as other nation’s targeted one of our nation’s most competitive export products. NPPC advocacy resulted in the USDA’s Market Facilitation Program (MFP) to address producer losses due to trade retaliation. This program paid out $155 million to pork producers through May 2019, the period for which data is available, and likely much more subsequently. Additionally, NPPC advocated for USDA pork purchases to offset the decline of export sales due to trade retaliation. Pork has been the single largest recipient of USDA purchases through the MFP and similar programs. In fiscal years 2020 and 2021, the USDA purchased 370 million pounds, or nearly $1.1 billion of pork. Repeat: the single largest recipient.
  • NPPC advocacy efforts, including outreach to members of Congress from thousands of its producer investors, also resulted in Congress authorizing funding to compensate hog farmers who were forced to euthanize animals due to COVID-related supply-chain disruptions. Ag Secretary Vilsack said in July that the lion’s share of this $300 million funding package will go to pork producers. The same legislation authorizing funding for euthanized hogs included enhancements to the $284 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that made it more accessible for pork producers. The PPP provided assistance to farmers and other small businesses to keep their workforces in place during the peak of the COVID crisis.

NPPC’s work did not end with efforts to secure federal government financial assistance related to trade and COVID assistance. NPPC was the leading private sector force voice in securing a new trade agreement with Japan that placed U.S. pork back on a level playing field with international competitors in this critical export market. NPPCs officers and staff were some of the chosen very few invited to the signing ceremony with President Trump and Prime Minister Abe in recognition of their efforts. NPPC was also the lead advocate in getting the North American metal tariff dispute resolved, ending the 20 percent punitive tariffs on U.S. pork headed to Mexico.

This week, the White House announced that it has secured significantly enhanced U.S. pork market access to Vietnam, a major pork-consuming nation struggling with African swine fever. NPPC has been lobbying aggressively for enhanced access to Vietnam for more than two years, leading an effort that included 70 members of Congress sending a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai asking that this be made a priority. This major victory followed NPPC’s successful advocacy efforts in April to secure improved U.S. pork market access to the Philippines, another major growth opportunity in a country also dealing with ASF. The critic from the North likes to harp on domestic consumption trends – by the way, promotion is not part of NPPC’s charter – and conveniently overlooks the record exports enjoyed by U.S. pork producers in recent years thanks to the council’s trade advocacy work.

As we all know, the U.S. pork industry now faces new challenges. First and foremost, the recent outbreak of African swine fever in the Western hemisphere. Over the last three years, NPPC has advocated for and won stepped up biosecurity defenses, including $635 million in new federal funding for border inspection, as well as implementation of an ASF surveillance program in the United States. NPPC is working closely with Secretary Vilsack on efforts to protect the United States from ASF. In fact, today the USDA announced its plans to establish Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as an ASF protection zone, a key step to ensuring U.S. pork trade continuity. We prefer a productive relationship with the USDA and will leave the inaccurate portrayals of its actions to the critic from the North.

NPPC also continues to lead the pork industry’s response to California’s Proposition 12, driving widespread awareness of its negative impact on consumers and hog farmers, seeking changes in the regulation and a delay in its implementation while preparing our next move on the litigation front. Legislative solutions for our industry’s labor shortage and working to minimize the impact of any increases in taxes in connection with the budget reconciliation package are among other priority issues we have asked producers to lobby on over the August recess.

HOTH knows not why the critic over the border is so determined to undermine producer-led NPPC. What we do know is that he claimed NPPC is somehow missing in action, an insult to the thousands of American hog farmers and their families who have played hands-on roles in the advocacy results we have achieved together to support our industry. NPPC regularly communicates its advocacy priorities and results directly to its investors. Hog farmers have enough problems. They don’t need an interloper making wild and inaccurate claims.