Hog farmers are dealing with a deadly pig disease and the threat of trade retaliation against their products, both of which will have a negative impact on the U.S. pork industry, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) told congressional lawmakers April 30 in testimony before a House Agriculture subcommittee.
In a hearing on the state of the U.S. livestock industry held by the Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Rural Development and Credit, NPPC President Dr. Howard Hill, a veterinarian and hog farmer from Cambridge, Iowa, detailed the effects on hog farmers of the U.S. country of origin labeling (COOL) law and of the porcine endemic diarrhea (PED) virus.
PED virus, said Hill, has killed about 7 million pigs in 30 states, losses that likely will reduce slaughter in the summer of 2014 by more than 10 percent. Such reductions would push U.S. hog prices up by 15 to 25 percent and force consumer pork prices up, according to economist Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics in Adel, Iowa.
Additionally, reduced hog numbers mean less feed, less medicine, fewer veterinary services and shortened hours at packing and processing plants, Hill testified.
NPPC wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct a thorough investigation on the pathway PED virus and another virus used to gain entry into the U.S. swine herd, to conduct more research on the viral propagation of the diseases and to commit more resources to determining the pathogenesis of and ways to control the viruses.
The U.S. pork industry also urged USDA to “take a thoughtful and measured approach” to developing the PED virus reporting program it announced earlier in April. Hog farmers need a program that is “practical, workable and that can be successful,” Hill said.
COOL, which requires meat to be labeled with the country where an animal was born, raised and slaughtered, caused the Canadian pork industry to reduce production as U.S. hog farmers sought to avoid the costs and complications associated with the law, Hill pointed out. Additionally, the statute prompted Canada and Mexico to bring trade cases to the World Trade Organization, which is expected to rule on them this summer.
Should the WTO decide that the COOL law doesn’t meet U.S. international trade obligations, Canada and Mexico would be allowed to place retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products. NPPC is urging Congress to consider a legislative fix to the labeling law.