ANALYSIS - Since the US Farm Bill was approved recently, two further aspects have emerged that received little publicity at the time; firstly, the Bill may offer an opportunity to resolve a trade dispute over Country of Origin Labelling identified in a review by the WTO. The second aspect relates to an amendment to the Bill in the form of an Act, which aims to prevent individual states entering into trade protectionism by requiring cost-prohibitive production methods in other states. The Russian Federation is taking recent outbreaks of African Swine Fever seriously; controls are being imposed on the transport of pigs and pig meat in the two regions affected. The long-awaited update to the National Research Council (NRC) Nutrient Requirements of Swine has been published.
When the US Farm Bill was finally approved earlier this month by the House Agriculture Committee, it was hailed by the American Farm Bureau Federation as a fiscally responsible, bipartisan measure that continues to provide a basic-but-broad foundation of risk management protection for America’s farmers and ranchers.
Implications of the Bill have begun to emerge in the meantime. It has been suggested, for example, that it offers an opportunity to bring Mandatory US Country of Origin Labelling (M-COOL) legislation into compliance with international trading rules.
This follows the news last month that the World Trade Organization has upheld an earlier Dispute Settlement Panel ruling that US M-COOL discriminates against imported livestock and is inconsistent with US trade obligations. The US now has 15 months to bring the law into compliance or face the prospects of retaliatory tariffs.
Dr Ron Plain, agricultural economics professor at the University of Missouri, says the US Farm Bill presents an opportunity to resolve the issue.
He said this could form part of the next revision of the general farm legislation or it could be achieved with stand-alone legislation that would move through to settle the dispute.
Dr Plain suggested US farmers have more to lose through trade disputes than those in most other countries so most of US agriculture will be in favour of the government resolving the problem.
An amendment to the Farm Bill that received little attention at the time could have considerable implications for the US swine industry.
It aims to prevent barriers to the free movement of animal products between states.
Congressman Steve King of Iowa achieved what he describes as a ‘legislative victory’ when an amendment he offered during the Agriculture Committee was adopted in the Farm Bill. It prohibits states from enacting laws that place onerous conditions on the means of production for agricultural goods that are sold within its own borders but are produced in other states.
The Protect Interstate Commerce Act (PICA) is aimed to prevent states entering into trade protectionism by requiring cost-prohibitive production methods in other states.
Rep. King commented: “PICA blocks states from requiring ‘free range’ eggs or ‘free range’ pork but covers all agriculture products listed in section 206 of the Agriculture Marketing Act of 1946.”
Citing an example from the egg industry, he said: “By 2014, California will require only ‘free range’ eggs be sold and the impact of their large market would compel producers in every other state to invest billions to meet the California standard of ‘means of production’.
“PICA will ensure that radical organisations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and PETA are prohibited from establishing a patchwork of restrictive state laws aimed at slowly suffocating production agriculture out of existence,” he added.
Having commented last week on the relatively healthy profitability of US pig production, margins are reported to have plummeted as feed prices have soared and hog prices have slumped.
There are signs that the latest outbreaks of African Swine Fever in the Russian Federation are being taken seriously. Movements of pigs are being restricted in one of the affected regions, Volgograd, while in Tver, the transportation of hogs, wild boars and their meat has been banned and hunting of wild boar is likely to be prohibited as early as this week.
And finally, the long-awaited new edition of Nutrient Requirements of Swine, also known as the ‘Swine NRC’ has been published.