WASHINGTON – As long as exports continue to grow, feed grains are available and producers are allowed to operate without undue legislative and regulatory burdens, the US pork industry can continue to be a leader in food production and meet domestic and world demand for pork. So testified the National Pork Producers Council on May 4 in congressional testimony.

The US pork industry is doing well, but has concerns about issues that could jeopardize its continued success, NPPC President Doug Wolf told the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry.

Exports have been a boon to the US pork industry, which is the world’s No. 1 exporter of pork, he pointed out. “The industry will not stay in that position if competitor countries cut trade deals in key markets and the United States does not,” he added

Lawmakers were urged by NPPC to approve the pending free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. When fully implemented, the deals will generate more than $770 million in additional pork exports, increase hog prices by more than $11 per head and create more than 10,000 US pork industry jobs, according to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes.

As good as exports can continue to be for the industry, Wolf cautioned the panel that “they will do little good if domestic policies hamper producers’ ability to operate.” He mentioned two issues: the availability of feed for animals and the US Department of Agriculture’s proposed regulation on buying and selling livestock – the GIPSA rule.

Tight feed-grain supplies, driven in part by subsidized ethanol production, could cause spot shortages of feed in 2011, and producers are worried that a weather event in the Corn Belt, for example, could affect next crop year’s (2011-2012) supplies. USDA was asked by NPPC to address the potential crisis, but the agency has not acted.

Wolf said one study found the GIPSA rule would cost the pork industry alone nearly $400 million annually and could force producers like him out of business. NPPC has asked USDA to scrap the rule, to write a regulation on only the five topics Congress told it to address in the 2008 Farm Bill and to conduct an economic analysis – open to public comment – of any rule before it is finalized.