Zoetis Influence Feed - October 2017 part 2

Every 2 weeks the team at Zoetis share the Top 5 Influencer Topics in the agriculture industry.
calendar icon 15 November 2017
clock icon 5 minute read


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On Oct. 17, the Trump administration withdrew the Farmer Fair Practice Rules, which would have updated the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration’s (GIPSA’s) Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 (Meatingplace, login required).

According to The Wall Street Journal, the rules would have lowered the bar (paywall) “for livestock farmers to challenge meatpackers over pricing and allegations of uncompetitive practices.” Vocal disagreements ensued regarding whether this was good news or bad for farmers.

North American Meat Institute CEO Barry Carpenter applauded the move: “The Secretary and his staff recognized the considerable harm the rule would have done to … farmers and ranchers, as well as consumers, retailers, and meat packers and processors.”

Many agriculture groups joined the chorus of support, including National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and American Farm Bureau Federation.

Meanwhile, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson vowed, “NFU will pursue congressional action that addresses competition issues and protects family farmers and ranchers.” Two senators who are also farmers — Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) — challenged the decision, while The New Food Economy called the move “a devastating blow to contract farmers.”

Meatingplace editor Lisa M. Keefe suggested (login required) the underlying concerns are not going away, and “It would behoove the processing industry to address the issues themselves. … Coming together voluntarily to hammer out the differences would be way cheaper than lawyers, and the public relations value is potentially remarkable.”

2. NAFTA Stalls

The fourth round of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations concluded on Oct. 17. The talks ended on a sour note after Canadian officials rejected a proposal to limit dairy supply management; U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer stated, “Frankly, I am surprised and disappointed by the resistance to change from our negotiating partners.” National Milk Producers Federation President and CEO Jim Mulhern applauded the efforts, and The Washington Post reported that Florida tomato growers supported similarly stringent requests for Mexican produce imports.

However, President Trump’s persistent threats to withdraw from the treaty riled many agriculture leaders. NFU President Johnson told Civil Eats, “[renegotiation is] the right idea and the right policy. But the President’s tactics and his approach, they just don’t seem like they match up to move in a positive direction.” On Oct. 25, 85 agriculture industry groups signed (PDF) a letter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urging for continued negotiations. The groups wrote, “In 2016, we exported nearly $43 billion worth of food and agriculture goods to Canada and Mexico, making our NAFTA partners the largest export consumers of U.S. agriculture.” Negotiations have been extended through the first quarter of 2018.

3. McDonald’s in the News

On Oct. 24, The Chicago Tribune reported that McDonald’s Corporation’s third-quarter earnings were strong, attributing growth to lower prices on several items. Washington Post writer Caitlin Dewey contrasted this with lackluster earnings from Chipotle Mexican Grill and questioned a common narrative in food media: “As for those ‘changing consumer preferences’ that the food industry frets so much about — among them, the desire for more natural and healthy foods — there’s little evidence that they’ve helped Chipotle lately or dissuaded many from chowing down on their habitual burgers.”

On Oct. 27, McDonald’s announced a new global sourcing policy for chicken that includes requirements for lighting, housing enrichments, atmospheric stunning and provisions to “study the effect that various production parameters have on key welfare outcomes.” While activist organizations objected that the move did not commit to using slower-growing breeds, McDonald’s resolved to “continue to collaborate with our suppliers, franchisees and employees to achieve real impact.” Colorado State University animal science professor Temple Grandin told Reuters, “I think it’s one of the most comprehensive programs that I’ve seen for chickens.”

4. RFS Levels Steady

Following suggestions that the EPA might roll back the levels of the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), farm state governors and senators successfully lobbied against that move (Bloomberg). As a result, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed course, promising that RFS levels would remain steady or rise in the coming year. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) told Politico Morning Agriculture, “We have enough of a bloc of Midwestern senators that they’re going to have to pay attention to us.”

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board argued that the program hurts midsize refiners: “For all of that reform rhetoric, [Trump’s] EPA is now capitulating to one of Washington’s worst examples of welfare for big business. By showing weakness, the Trump Administration invites further special-interest shakedowns.” Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen commented, “The U.S. ethanol industry is grateful for Administrator Pruitt’s epiphany on the road to the RFS.”

5. Meatless

Three stories about vegetarian foods attracted attention in the recent weeks:

  • On Oct. 17, plant-based protein company Beyond Meat announced that actor Leonardo DiCaprio joined its list of investors. DiCaprio tweeted: “Proud to invest in plant-based @BeyondMeat as livestock production is a major driver of carbon emissions.” Beyond Meat Executive Chairman Seth Goldman welcomed DiCaprio in response: “Together we can help transform the ‘meat aisle’ into the ‘protein aisle’ #futureofprotein.”
  • On Oct. 19, takeout resource Grubhub partnered with vegan organization Meatless Monday to release order data for meat-free dishes. The groups found that “Americans are increasingly ordering meatless dishes, and that the popularity of vegan, vegetarian and meat substitutes has grown significantly in recent years.”
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and other leaders announced on Oct. 23 that fifteen Brooklyn schools will institute “Meatless Mondays” — all-vegetarian breakfast and lunch — in spring 2018. De Blasio said, “Cutting back a little on meat will help make our City (sic) healthier and our planet stronger for generations to come.” Mercy For Animals (MFA) responded, “Hopefully lawmakers around the country will take a cue from the Big Apple and put meat reduction on the agenda — and certainly not waste taxpayer money trying to stop Meatless Monday.”

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