DES MOINES, IA— The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) hosted a policy panel at the 2023 World Pork Expo. NPPC board officers and experts discussed the pork industry’s current priorities vital to protecting producers’ livelihoods and ensuring pork production remains a pillar of the U.S. economy.
“Advocating for reasonable public policy, expanding exports, protecting our animals from foreign animal diseases and defending efforts to restrict what we do all help keep our farms successful,” said NPPC President and fifth-generation pig farmer Scott Hays of Missouri. “Despite facing economic headwinds, pig farmers have always prevailed in difficult times to put safe and affordable food on the table.”
Preparing for and preventing foreign animal diseases, addressing the agricultural labor shortage, and increasing pork exports are some of the top public-policy issues for pork producers.
Protecting the safety of the food supply in the farm bill
Andrew Bailey, NPPC legal counsel, science and technology, discussed how the renewal of key farm bill programs addressing animal disease prevention and management of foreign animal disease (FAD) risks are vital to protecting the U.S. pig herd, which include:
- National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank
- National Animal Health Laboratory Network
- National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program
- National Veterinary Stockpile
Dr. Anna Forseth, NPPC director of animal health, shared the industry’s progress on six priorities to prepare for a FAD. These include – harmonizing state and federal response, on-farm preparedness, surveillance, U.S. SHIP indemnity and international trade.
“Pork producers are facing an increasing threat from foreign animal disease, such as African swine fever, and the potential impacts cannot be overstated,” said Hays. “Farm bill programs and funding support critical prevention and preparedness measures to protect producers and consumers by minimizing risks to the U.S. pork supply.”
An active trade agenda supports producers and the U.S. economy
U.S. pig farmers have built a reputation for providing high-quality, affordable, and safe pork products globally. Maria C. Zieba, NPPC vice president of international affairs, highlighted the importance of international markets for the industry. Opening new and expanding existing markets through trade agreements, investment framework agreements and market access deals is vital to its success.
NPPC is focused on bilateral market access negotiations in Southeast Asia, and its inclusion in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which encompasses 13 countries and 1.5 billion consumers and through the U.S.-Taiwan Initiative on 21st-Century Trade.
Visa reform needs to address the labor shortage
Christina Banoub spoke about the ongoing labor shortage negatively impacting all links of the food supply chain, particularly in the pork industry. NPPC supports expanding the H-2A visa program that will allow access to year-round labor for agriculture, including pig farming.
Despite higher wage offerings and competitive benefits, pig farm employment has declined since 2021. As a result, the U.S. pork industry is dependent on foreign-born workers, but current visa programs fail to meet the workforce needs of farmers. We are in dire need of expansion of the H-2A visa program.
NPPC CEO Bryan Humphreys commented that recent policy successes and disappointments will impact producers for years to come. With the Supreme Court’s decision upholding California Proposition 12, another NPPC priority is working with the California Department of Food and Agriculture to ensure a smooth transition for farmers and consumers who want to continue buying pork at California grocery stores and restaurants.
“As our industry faces challenging economic conditions, producers need certainty and peace of mind in other areas of their businesses.,” said Humphreys. “As the global voice for the U.S. pork industry, NPPC speaks up to shape policy that will allow producers to focus on what they do best — provide consumers with the safest and the most wholesome and nutritious pork products found anywhere on the planet.”
Policy papers and additional resources are available at www.nppc.org/wpxmedia for more detailed information.