Biosecurity sign

COVID-19 relief and animal disease prevention topped the list of items of interest to pork producers as they met with government officials in Washington, D.C. during a virtual event held last week.

In a conference call with reporters, leaders of the National Pork Producers Council said the long-term nature of the COVID-19 situation and the news this month of the discovery of a feral pig in Germany carrying African swine fever made this year’s event timely.

NPPC President Howard Roth of Wisconsin said ASF had led to the killing of one out of every four hogs in the world, and that the United States needs to be vigilant about keeping the disease out of the country.

“Unfortunately, a significant lapse in inspection funding is putting agriculture at risk,” Roth said.

The U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection conducts agriculture inspections at ports of entry, and these are funded by Agricultural Quarantine Inspection program user fees. Because of COVID-19, there have been reductions in travel and fewer fees are being collected. Without a resolution, there could be a $630 million shortfall in funding by the end of fiscal 2021. NPPC is pushing for Congress to provide additional funding for the inspection program.

NPPC is also advocating for a COVID-19 aid package for agriculture that would also include compensation for farmers who have had to euthanize hogs, additional funding for animal health surveillance, modifications to the Commodity Credit Corporation charter to allow it to provide additional funding, direct payments to producers, and extension of the Paycheck Protection Program with some modifications to help producers.

In addition, NPPC is pushing for a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement. It is advocating for moving regulatory oversight of gene editing in animals from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to USDA. And it supports reauthorization of the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act, which is set to expire on Sept. 30.

Pork producers have had a difficult time, according to NPPC CEO Neil Dierks.

“We’ve been at the tip of trade retaliation for two years and then we had COVID,” he said, adding that the industry wants to “try to get to a more normalized state with as many participants as possible.”

Gene Lucht is public affairs editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.