The U.S. pork industry has been hit harder than nearly every other sector of the U.S. economy as a result of the Trump Administration’s complex overhaul of U.S. trade policy. This overhaul has upended the global trade arena, resulting in trade disputes between the United States and countries spanning all regions of the world, and pork producers are shouldering an overwhelming portion of the impact.
While the Administration works to resolve these trade disputes, U.S. pig farmers are in dire need of solutions to sustain an industry that employs more than 550,000 Americans and generates nearly $24 billion in personal income in rural America. If nothing changes, the livelihoods of America’s pork farmers will continue to be in danger and American consumers will start feeling the effects.
Here’s where pork producers need help, and need it quickly:
Address A Serious Labor Shortage: Visa Reform
America’s pig farmers and plant operators need a reliable workforce in order to continue providing the highest standards of animal care, and a steady, affordable, safe supply of pork for American consumers. Currently the industry is suffering from a serious labor shortage that must be addressed through visa system reform.
There are two pieces of existing federal legislation that can provide immediate relief if passed by Congress:
The Newhouse-Cuellar Amendment is a provision of the fiscal 2019 funding bill that allows farmers to use the existing H-2A visa program year-round, instead of only for seasonal labor.
The “AG and Legal Workforce Act” (H.R. 6417) is a piece of bipartisan legislation that would replace the seasonal H-2A agricultural visa with a year-round agricultural guest worker visa.
Protect the Food Supply: Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD)
If an outbreak of FMD happened today, U.S. farmers wouldn’t have access to a vaccine in time to stop a catastrophic spread of the disease. This would cripple the entire agricultural sector and result in the immediate loss of more than 58,000 jobs. Without an FMD vaccine bank capable of quickly containing and eradicating an outbreak, the livestock and crop sectors will suffer nearly $200 billion in losses over a 10-year period.
Farmers need Congress to establish mandatory funding for an FMD vaccine bank through the life of the Farm Bill.
Keep Food Affordable: Interstate Commerce
State regulations that dictate the production practices of farms outside of their borders are unconstitutional and will unnecessarily increase costs for farmers and food prices for consumers.
This is currently happening in two states. Massachusetts passed a law that prohibits the sale of pork produced using certain methods, even when produced in states other than Massachusetts. California has an initiative on the state’s ballot in November that will do the same. As a result of these state mandates, consumers will feel it in their wallets (to the tune of $5 billion) and have less choices at the grocery store.
States need to give the freedom of food choice back to American consumers. To make this happen, Congress must include the “Protect Interstate Commerce Act”(H.R. 4879) in the House Farm Bill, a provision which will make it unlawful for states to impose regulations outside their borders.
Maintain a Level Playing Field: Cultured Meat
Cultured meat should face the same regulations as real meat. After all, manufacturers of these products are growing pig (or cow, chicken or turkey) muscle and fat cells and combining them to mimic meat. While the production practices of these products are shrouded in secrecy, the misleading marketing plans of the companies producing such products are clear, with animal imagery and terms such as “clean meat” and “prime beef” used in their packaging prototypes.
The Trump Administration must maintain a level playing field by establishing regulatory authority over laboratory-produced cultured protein products within the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service where producers of cultured meat will be required to comply with the same regulatory standards, including continuous inspection, process controls, antemortem and postmortem inspection of source animals and other requirements, as naturally produced meat and poultry products. Any alternative is a threat to consumer safety.
Create Common Sense Regulation: Gene Editing
Gene editing is an animal health breakthrough that will dramatically enhance animal care and food safety in America. Currently, the practice is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and faces an impractical, lengthy and expensive approval process. This puts American farmers at a disadvantage, making this innovation unavailable to them while competitors around the world can realize its potential.
The Trump administration must move regulatory oversight of gene editing in animals from the FDA to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. APHIS, which already regulates gene editing in plants, can ensure a proper, risk-based regulatory review under the Animal Health Protection Act.