A delegation of U.S. pork producers, along with trade and science representatives traveled to South America to meet with officials in Brazil, Argentina and Colombia last week. Among the topics on the agenda were discussions regarding trichinosis-related restrictions that the countries continue to impose on U.S. pork. Representing the U.S. pork industry were Bill Luckey, National Pork Producer Council board member and Nebraska producer; Craig Christensen, National Pork Board trade committee chair; Nick Giordano, NPPC vice president and international affairs counsel; and Ray Gamble from the National Academies of Science. Gamble is considered the world’s foremost authority on trichinosis.

Among the meetings' objectives was to convince the countries' trade and health officials to remove all trichinae-related restrictions on U.S. pork. Toward that effort, Gamble presented his findings from a recent report that illustrates there is a “negligible risk” of trichinosis in today's U.S. commercial swine herd. Luckey and Christensen outlined biosecurity protocols applied to U.S. pork production sites today, as well as the indoor rearing and herd health practices. The group emphasized that there is no scientific evidence to support continued restrictions on U.S. pork based on trichinae concerns. 

The delegation also met with each country’s Codex representative, NPPC officials report. Codex is the world body that sets food standards and guidelines. The delegates discussed several issues that will be addressed at this year's Codex Commission meeting in July. Among the topics that the U.S. and South American representatives discussed was the prospect of adopting science-based standards for ractopamine, and how the countries could work together to reach out to other nations to embrace such standards.

While in South America, the U.S. pork delegation also met with pork industry groups in the respective countries to further understand their markets and to discuss the U.S. pork trade relationship, NPPC officials report.

In another trade related issue also occurring last week, Phillip Wise, a producer from Harris, Mo., represented NPPC in testimony before the House Small Business Committee. Wise told the panel that the United States cannot afford to sit on the sidelines when it comes to trade agreements. U.S. pork producers are already losing market share to other countries reaching deals with prospective trade partners, specifically Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

The U.S. pork industry's future and that of America’s family hog farms depend on the continued expansion of exports, Wise told the congressmen. 

The Colombia, Panama and South Korea free-trade agreements depend on Congressional approval for final implementation. NPPC is urging the Obama administration to send up the "implementing legislation" and to urge Congress to approve the three FTAs before the August recess. Collectively, these FTAs have been stalled for multiple years now.

As Dermot Hayes, Iowa State University agricultural economist, calculates the three FTAs would generate more than $770 million in additional pork exports per year when fully implemented. They also would boost live-hog prices by $11.35 per head and produce more than 10,200 direct pork industry jobs.