Friday, May 28, 2010

Response To North Korean Attack: Pass U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement

Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has a suggestion in today's Wall Street Journal for a U.S. response to North Korea's unprovoked attack in late March on a South Korean navy ship: pass the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement.

He says the trade pact, which has been languishing in Congress for three years, not only would create jobs but would "send a much-needed signal of solidarity with an ally at a time of true need."

The U.S. pork industry doesn't play in geopolitics but, nevertheless, couldn't agree more. South Korea is a top export destination for American pork products, and an FTA with that country could make it our No. 1 market, surpassing Japan and adding more than $10 to the price U.S. producers receive for each hog sold.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

EPA Settlement On Issue Still Subject To Litigation

There's a little more to EPA's guidance on CAFO discharge permits on which HOTH (Hogs on the Hill) commented Tuesday. The guidance is part of a lawsuit settlement that not only was negotiated "quietly" between EPA and environmental groups and without input from farmers but also done while the agency is still involved in litigation over the discharge permit issue.

Livestock groups, including NPPC, have an ongoing lawsuit in federal court, challenging a 2008 CAFO Rule provision that would require large livestock operations that are presumed to be discharging to obtain Clean Water Act permits. That's contrary to a 2005 federal court ruling that such permits are required only for operations that actually discharge. (The environmental groups also were part of the ongoing suit but dropped out once they got the settlement.)

In the settlement, EPA agreed to:

• Issue guidance by May 28, 2010, for what constitutes a “proposal to discharge” by a CAFO. Operations presumed to be discharging would need to get permits.
• Issue regulations requiring all CAFOs – even if there is no evidence they are not properly managing their manure – to submit the kind of detailed information that would normally be included in a Clean Water Act CAFO permit.
• Make available to the public all the information that CAFOs are required to submit.

NPPC issued a press release on the matter.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

PETA Attempts To Buy Its Influence

The people who brought you lettuce leaf-wearing models serving tofu hot dogs in front of the U.S. Capitol are becoming shareholders in the companies they are trying to put out of business. For years now People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been purchasing shares in, and now owns a piece of, at least 80 mostly food companies, including McDonald’s and Kraft, according to an Associated Press story.

Despite its foray into the corporate world, PETA isn't giving up its outrageous attacks against the companies in which it owns stock, even going as far as making mock Web sites of some of them.

While PETA's aim is to influence companies' animal welfare policies -- possibly through proposing shareholder resolutions -- its ultimate goal remains unchanged: stop the production of meat.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Rules Could Restrict Manure Use

The U.S. EPA has developed guidance for when livestock and poultry farmers have a "duty" to obtain discharge permits under the year-old Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) Rule, which sets a zero-discharge standard for manure getting into waterways. The problem is a federal court ruled in 2005 that only operations that actually discharge must get permits.

The guidance, which is expected to be approved by the White House this week, was developed "quietly," accordig to Inside EPA, between EPA and environmental groups and without input from the agriculture community. In fact, when asked, EPA claimed it couldn't discuss the guidance with those to whom it will apply! (The U.S. pork industry is understandably disappointed since it worked with EPA for more than 10 years to craft a workable CAFO Rule.)

In a related matter, after reaching a settlement May 11, EPA will set stringent pollution rules for the Chesapeake Bay that could restrict manure use in the 64,000-square-mile watershed, which covers parts of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. The agency will establish for nitrogen, phosphorous and other chemicals Total Maximum Daily Limits that can go into waters that end up in the 200-mile-long bay. The rules and TMDLs are expected to serve as models for other waterways, including the Mississippi River.

The new TMDLs, coupled with the CAFO Rule guidance, could be used to limit the size of farms and restrict the application of manure to cropland.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

'Tell Me Why I Don't Like Mondays'

Add one more reason to the Boomtown Rats' list for not liking Mondays. Now famous, pork-loving chef Mario Batali supports "Meatless Mondays." (By the way, the Boomtown Rats were an Irish rock band lead by "Live Aid" promoter Bob Geldof. The group had a No. 1 hit in 1979 with the song "I Don't Like Mondays.")

We don't believe consumers need to go as far as giving up meat for a day. Remember, lots of pork cuts are lean sources of needed protein, vitamins and minerals.

We hope Chef Batali will reconsider and maybe think of adding a pork smorgasbord to his Monday menus.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

An Open Letter to the President & Congress

As Mexican President Felipe Calderon visits the White House today, it is important to note that Mexico is the No. 2 value market for U.S. pork (it was also the U.S. pork industry’s top volume market in 2009).

On page 5 of Capitol Hill newspaper Politico today there is an open letter to the U.S. Congress and President Obama, urging them to strengthen ties – including trade - with Mexico.

The letter, signed by NPPC along with 78 organizations and businesses, stresses the importance of integrating U.S. and Mexican potential as a way to create a more efficient production chain that will enhance our competitiveness in the global marketplace.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I'll Have Ham, And Hold The Mayo

Following the lead of the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future's "Meatless Mondays," the Mayo Clinic is promoting meatless diets.

The famous clinic put out a press release on the issue, suggesting that as an alternative to meat women can eat beans and legumes, tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein, seitan, quinoa and nuts and seeds. (We're still trying to find out what "tempeh, textured vegetable protein, seitan and quinoa" are.) This is Mayo's prescription for lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and dealing with obesity and diabetes.

We easily found one critic of the clinic's cure for diabetes. And we previously pointed out that meat is a valuable source of vitamins and minerals that are essential to healthful diets.

As for the Center for a Livable Future, it's director is Prof. Robert Lawrence, a "co-principal investigator" for the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production's report on antibiotic resistance, which essentially blames animal agriculture for the rise in antibiotic-resistant illnesses in humans.

That's contrary to top scientists at the CDC and NIH, who recently told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that there is no definitive study linking the use of antibiotics in animals to changes in resistance in humans.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How About Equal Time -- Or Any Time?

Ellen DeGeneres twice has given a forum -- her television show -- to one of the uninformed critics of modern livestock production, Jonathan Safran Foer. (He was hawking his anti-meat book, Eating Animals.) Foer claims, among other things, that livestock farming is the No. 1 cause of global warming and air and water pollution.

Despite two requests to set the record straight, Ellen has refused to give the U.S. livestock industry a chance to respond to Foer's fomenting. In fact, after the first show on which Foer appeared, Ellen expressed surprise about the lack of pushback from the livestock indusry about his claims. A letter to her from the NPPC president apparently didn't count.

So now we're urging readers to comment on Ellen's unfair treatment of America's farmers and ranchers.

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's Official: China Accepting U.S. Pork

China today gave official notice that it is accepting shipments of U.S. pork, a move that should prove a boon to the U.S. pork industry. Pork produced on or after May 1 now can be exported to China.

The Asian nation closed its market to U.S. pork in late April 2009 in the wake of an outbreak in humans of novel H1N1 influenza, which the media misnamed “swine” flu. While in March it agreed to reopen its market to U.S. pork imports, China took until now to begin accepting product.

The U.S. pork industry exported nearly 400,000 metric tons of pork worth nearly $690 million to China/Hong Kong in 2008, making it the No. 3 destination for U.S. pork. Last year, U.S. pork exports to China/Hong Kong were down by 38 percent, falling to just under $427 million.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kerry-Lieberman Recognizes Concerns Over Replacing Crop Land With Trees

Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., Wednesday introduced their version of a cap-and-trade energy bill. The "American Power Act" would require cuts in carbon emissions -- 83 percent by 2050 -- from certain sectors and set up a system for buying and selling carbon credits, a system similar to one included in the House-approved Waxman-Markey measure.

That bill was criticized by agriculture for including incentives for converting crop land to forests, which more inexpensively can sequester carbon dioxide. Studies, including one conducted by USDA, found that from 36 million to 50 million acres of crop and grazing lands would be planted to trees so landowners could collect carbon credits that could be sold to sectors, such as utilities, that exceed their carbon caps. Of course, with fewer crop acres there would be fewer crops and higher feed costs for livestock farmers.

Kerry-Lieberman does acknowledge agriculture's concerns with the Waxman-Markey bill by requiring the agriculture secretary to conduct periodic analyses of land removed from crop production to determine the impact on food, feed, commodity prices, livestock prices, food prices and the environment.

NPPC, which raised the issue of crop land conversion with Kerry's and Lieberman's staffs, says the legislation still needs a lot of work.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pork Industry Needs U.S. To Approve Pending Free Trade Agreements

A number of agriculture groups, including the National Pork Producers Council, last week detailed the consequences of the United States' failure to approve free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea -- lost economic growth and lost jobs.

According to an analysis conducted by Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes, without FTAs with the three countries, the U.S. pork industry will be out of those markets within 10 years at a cost to producers of more than $11.50 per pig and to the U.S. economy of thousands of jobs.

NPPC Immediate Past President Don Butler today talked with SwineCast's Ned Arthur about the importance of passing the pending FTAs.

Eat More Pork

First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday made public her plan to address childhood obesity, including a recommendation to provide healthier foods in the federal School Breakfast and School Lunch programs.

We hope consideration will be given to adding more cuts of pork to the menus. A 2006 USDA study found that six common cuts of pork contain 16 percent less total fat and 27 percent less saturated fat than they did 20 years ago. It also found that pork contains no artery-clogging trans fats, and it includes essential vitamins and minerals. A serving of roast pork tenderloin, for example, is an excellent source of protein, thiamine, vitamin B6, phosphorous and niacin and a good source of riboflavin, potassium and zinc. Pork is a lean, low-calorie, relatively low-cost source of high-quality protein – a 3-ounce tenderloin has 2.98 grams of fat compared to 3.03 grams for the same-sized serving of skinless chicken breast.

Of course, we might also recommend that kids put down the X-Box and Wii controllers and get a little exercise.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

HSUS Pushes Initiatives On Raising Animals

The Humane Society of the United States -- which doesn't operate one animal shelter and contributes only 1/2 of 1 percent of its funds to such shelters -- apparently has collected enough voter signatures in Missouri to get an initiative on this November's ballot to tell the state's dog breeders how many dogs they can breed and how to care for them. The livestock and poultry industries in that state are worried they're next on HSUS's target list.

In fact, HSUS is now trying to tell farmers in Ohio how to raise their animals. The organization, according to Feedstuffs magazine, has run into some trouble collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would direct the less-than-1-year-old Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board to prohibit the use of sow stalls and veal crates and to adopt housing standards for laying hens.

To learn more about HSUS's ... er ... activities, visit

Monday, May 10, 2010


Welcome to Hogs on the Hill, a blog that will offer commentary on issues of importance to the U.S. pork industry. We hope you'll visit often, and feel free to comment on any of our posts.

After more than two years of losses, pork producers have seen profits the past few months -- here's a Minneapolis Star-Tribune story on one such producer -- but actions (even inactions) in Washington could jeopardize all that. From stalled trade deals, efforts to ban animal antibiotics and federal biofuels policy to new environmental rules and livestock "competition" workshops, the U.S. pork industry has its hands full in dealing with issues other than providing safe, wholesome pork to consumers worldwide. Hogs on the Hill will be commenting on all those matters in the days ahead. Stay tuned.

One topic on which we've wanted to weigh in is the "organic/free-range" debate. For whatever reason, there are those, including those opposed to modern livestock production, who take as gospel that organic and free-range mean better and safer. Here's a contrary view that appeared in The Atlantic about meat from free-range livestock.