Pork producers request congressional support
By: Sydney Sheffield
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) recently held its Legislative Action Conference in Washington, D.C. to discuss pork industry priorities and needs with members of Congress. The top concerns were preparing for and preventing foreign animal diseases, addressing an agricultural labor shortage, and increasing pork exports.
“Challenges facing our industry continue to evolve, and we hope our efforts this week help lawmakers understand why these issues are so important to the livelihoods of producers and the future of our industry,” said Terry Wolters, NPPC president. “But we need action now on those three matters so producers can continue providing safe, nutritious pork to consumers worldwide. The fly-in allows producers to use their voices and tell their stories to compel representatives to take swift action on these issues.”
African swine fever (ASF) is a major concern of the pork industry. Last July, ASF was detected in the Western Hemisphere for the first time in more than 40 years. NPPC specifically requested funding for fiscal 2023 for additional U.S. Customs and Border Protection agricultural inspectors, the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, which provides disease surveillance and diagnostic support in cases of large-scale animal disease outbreaks, and additional staff for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Veterinary Services to help combat ASF.
NPPC suggests that congressional funds be appropriated to:
Build the capacity of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services field staff to respond to and address an outbreak on the mainland United States or U.S. territories
Further build the infrastructure and workforce capabilities of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, which conducts surveillance of and testing for foreign animal diseases
Build capacity at ports of entry to prevent unauthorized meat, animal by-products, and other vectors that can carry ASF from entering the country and infecting U.S. agriculture
Labor shortages are also of concern due to the restrictions on the H-2A visa program. Currently, the visa only allows for temporary, seasonal farm laborers. The pork industry provides a pathway to legal status for foreign-born agricultural workers already in the United States, so NPPC is requesting Congress to extend the H-2A visa program to year-round agriculture workers. “Employment in hog farming has declined in recent years despite growing labor needs and rising wages. As a key economic driver, hog farming is vital to prosperity in rural America and we need Congress to take action on H2-A visa reform,” said Wolters.