When Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., sat down to the microphone to read her statement into the record during Thursday's markup of the Senate version of the 2012 Farm Bill, few were seated around the table. She had returned from a break and made sure her statement and proposed amendment were read into the record.
Turns out that "lonely" statement has some potential healthy impact for the U.S. livestock industry, according to the National Pork Producers Council. Recognizing the global footprint of the U.S. pork industry and its associated risks, Klobuchar got her amendment included in the new farm bill. The amendment, cosponsored by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and part of a package of riders offered as a manager's amendment to the farm legislation, calls for a study on setting up catastrophic risk management insurance for pork producers to cover input costs lost because of an animal disease or event that stops exports of U.S. pork.
"The U.S. pork industry thanks Sen. Klobuchar for her leadership and is grateful to her for sponsoring this much-needed study," said R.C. Hunt, a pork producer from Wilson, N.C., and president of the National Pork Producers Council. "The increased presence of disease, along with increasing international travel and trade that move diseases around the world, have created an unprecedented risk to the U.S. pork industry. Producers need risk-management tools that can protect them should our export markets close."
The U.S. pork industry in 2011 exported more than $6 billion of product, which accounted for about 27% of total production and supported more than 50,000 jobs. But with that success comes additional risk, according to NPPC. Indeed, U.S. pork exports fell in 2009 after 16 years of record exports because of an outbreak in humans of the H1N1 flu virus that was misnamed "swine flu."
USDA already has a pilot insurance program for hog producers called Livestock Gross Margin, but it has a $3 million limit on spending that restricts the number of pigs that any one producer can insure. Additionally, the program now is available only for a six-month period.
The Klobuchar farm bill amendment would require USDA to study how a catastrophic event insurance program for pork would be structured.