WASHINGTON — The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) will introduce its most important priorities during the organization’s Legislative Action Conference on April 6-7.

NPPC noted that preventing foreign animal diseases, addressing an agricultural labor shortage and increasing pork exports as the top policy issues. According to the organization, nearly 100 producers will attend the event in Washington, DC, which will be held for the first time in three years.

“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 and owner of Stoney Creek Farms in Pipestone, Minn. “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.”

When it comes to preventing foreign animal diseases, mainly African swine fever (ASF), NPPC is asking for additional funding for US Customs and Border Protection agricultural inspectors and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. Additionally, NPPC would like to see more staff for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Veterinary Services.

On the issue of labor shortages, the NPPC plans to ask Senate and House members to expand the H-2A visa program to year-round agricultural workers, including packing plant employees. At the moment, visas are only allowed for temporary, seasonal farm laborers. The organization also said it supports a pathway to legal status for foreign-born agricultural workers already in the United States. 

“Employment in hog farming has declined in recent years despite growing labor needs and rising wages,” Wolters said. “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.” 

Lastly, pork producers at the conference will lobby politicians on the importance of trade in the pork industry. The organization is urging the Biden administration to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The 11-country CPTPP has almost 500 million consumers and $13.5 trillion of GDP. 

The United States withdrew from the previous CPTPP agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, during the Trump administration. 

Producers also plan to request that the administration negotiate a more ambitious Indo-Pacific Economic Framework deal, one that includes agriculture and addresses non-tariff barriers to US products, including pork.