A bill that would pave the way for the state of Louisiana to spend $50 million on the Farmerville facility has cleared another hurdle, with the House committee agreeing to send it to the floor for more debate.

Senate Bill 283, sponsored by Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, changes the rules of Louisiana’s $400 million “mega-project” fund, which is designed to lure large-scale industrial projects to the state, reports the Times-Picayune. The change would let the state use $40 million to support the purchase of the Pilgrim’s Pride facility by Foster Farms. Another $10 million would be used to pay for capital improvements to the plant.

The bill is moving through the state government quickly, as the plant is scheduled to close on Friday, and delays would add to the time that the plant’s workers would be unemployed. If the bill is signed into law, the state Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee would still have to approve the money and a contract detailing the agreement between the state and Foster Farms.

Source: New Orleans Times-Picayune

NPPC asks USDA to help pork producers

The National Pork Producers Council sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help the U.S. pork industry deal with the negative effects of the H1N1 flu.

Pork producers, who prior to the announcement of the current flu outbreak already were losing money, have seen losses accelerate to an average of $17.69 on each hog marketed as of May 1. Total losses reached $7.2 million a day between April 24 and May 1.

“Given those loses and based on May 1 futures prices,” said NPPC President Don Butler, “a bad situation for pork producers has been exacerbated and could get worse unless the industry gets some relief.”

To help stem the losses U.S. pork producers are incurring, NPPC has asked USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to:
• Implement a USDA purchase program for $50 million of pork products to help boost cash hog prices. Products can be put into federal emergency food programs, food pantries, senior/elderly feeding programs, hunger programs and other non-commercial food channels.
• Urge President Obama to work with U.S. trading partners to remove all restrictions on exports of U.S. pork and pork products and to maintain U.S. pork export markets around the world.
• Develop a comprehensive surveillance program for swine diseases, which will provide an early warning for emerging diseases that affect human and animal health. Mandatory premises and animal identification would be necessary for an effective surveillance program.
• Work to keep open the border between the United States and Canada – in the wake of a report that pigs on a Canadian pork operation contracted from a worker the H1N1 flu – to allow hog movements.

NPPC told Sec. Vilsack it would identify and bring to his attention other actions USDA could take to assist the U.S. pork industry during the current situation.

Source: National Pork Producers Council

Countries fight back against pork bans

Canadian officials are threatening to take China to the World Trade Organization (WTO) unless it removes its ban of imported pigs and pork products from Alberta. The ban was enacted after the discovery that a farm worker who had recently visited Mexico had spread the H1N1 flu virus to some pigs at the farm. Farm Futures reports that the Canadian Agriculture Minister told Parliament that China is “operating outside of sound science.”

"We would expect those countries, which have gone ahead with the ban or were thinking about it, would stop and have a look at scientific guidelines and would recognize that the meat itself is not a problem," Stockwell Day, Canada’s trade minister, said.

Mexico sent a statement to the WTO stating that it was “deeply disappointed” by the bans enacted on its pork products and called on its trading partners to repeal all pork import bans imposed as a result of the virus, which has not shown to be foodborne. Approximately 20 countries have banned Mexican pork since the virus was first reported.

Elsewhere, Spain has declared Russia’s ban of Spanish pork products is unjustified, and the two countries are working on a diplomatic solution. Spanish Environment and Rural Affairs Minister, Elena Espinosa, said that closing borders due to the flu cannot be justified.

Russia, in the meantime, removed import bans on raw pork products from Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, New Jersey and Ohio while banning raw pork products from Massachusetts and all meat products from Delaware.

Sources: Farm Futures, Reuters