Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill coined the phrase all politics is local. Essentially, legislative actions taken in Washington, D.C., have real-world ramifications throughout the country. As lawmakers are currently back in their districts for their congressional recess, now is a great opportunity to talk with them about the local impacts of two top U.S. pork producer issues: appeal of a recent damaging court ruling on harvest facility line speeds and the urgent need for agriculture labor reform.
NPPC’s top priority the past few months has been urging the administration to appeal a recent court ruling on harvest facility line speeds. The New Swine Inspection System (NSIS), initiated during the Clinton administration and evaluated at five pilot plants over 20 years, was approved for industry-wide adoption in 2019. NSIS modernized an inspection system that had remained unchanged for more than 50 years.
The court ruling, which went into effect on June 30, will result in a 2.5 percent loss in pork packing plant capacity nationwide, and more than $80 million in reduced income for small U.S. hog farmers this year, according to an analysis by Iowa State University Economist Dr. Dermot Hayes. Producers surrounding the six NSIS plants operating at line speeds of above 1,106 hogs per hour will be most negatively impacted. The NSIS plants will suffer from capacity reductions by as much as 25 percent, he found.
Additionally, in late June, 70 lawmakers joined Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Reps. Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) and Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) in letters asking the administration to stop the court ruling from harming pork producers. NPPC is appreciative of those who signed the letters, and we need to keep the issue top-of-mind for both lawmakers and the administration.
While the ruling is in effect, the administration has until the end of August to appeal. NPPC continues to urge the administration to appeal this damaging ruling – which will quickly lead to increased pork industry concentration and packer market power – and seeks waivers for the impacted plants until a longer-term solution, acceptable to all industry stakeholders, is realized.
Another high priority issue is agriculture labor reform. The U.S. pork industry is suffering from a serious labor shortage, negatively impacting farms and processing plants. The U.S. pork industry offers good jobs with solid pay and benefits, but most Americans don’t live near our hog farms or harvest facilities, and rural populations continue to decline. As a result, the U.S. pork industry is largely dependent on foreign-born workers. Unfortunately, current visa programs fail to meet the workforce needs of U.S. pork producers and other year-round livestock farmers.
NPPC is urging Congress to address labor reform that both opens the H-2A visa program to year-round labor, without a cap, and provides legal status for agricultural workers already in the country. Last week, we introduced a campaign, “Year-Round Pork Needs Year-Round Workers,” highlighting the vital role of foreign-born workers across the U.S. pork industry. Lawmakers need to hear about the integral role of foreign-born workers in our industry, and that without a solution on labor reform, the rural economy and prosperity of livestock farmers will suffer.
The most powerful voice in Congress is yours. If you can, take the opportunity to talk to your local lawmakers about these top issues and how they can help support a vital sector of the rural economy that supports more than 500,000 jobs, and provides high-quality, affordable protein to consumers here at home and around the globe.