WISCONSINREPORT.COM (03/19/2010) - Wisconsin Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection Secretary Rod Nilsestuen is applauding the announcement that China has reopened its markets to pork and pork products from the U.S. almost a year after slamming the door shut in the wake of the H1N1 scare. Meanwhile, a resolution is to be introduced on the U.S. House floor to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and recognizing the efforts of former Wisconsin U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson who made Earth Day possible. Earth Day will be held April 22nd this year.
“This is great news for hog producers in Wisconsin and nationwide,” said Nilsestuen, Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. “Wisconsin’s pork industry is an important segment of our agricultural economy, supporting 5,000 jobs and with a $200 million annual economic impact. Reopening the Chinese market should help boost demand and raise the price at the farm gate. That’s good for producers and good for their rural communities.”
China closed its borders to pork and pork products from the United States in April 2009, when the first wave of H1N1 influenza hit the U.S. and was misnamed “swine flu” although it was a human disease. Many other nations also closed their borders to U.S. pork, but China’s action hit American pork producers particularly hard because it was such a large market.
The announcement that the market would reopen came as a result of discussions that began last October when U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk met with Chinese officials.
“Secretary Vilsack’s diligence has served pork producers well. It’s especially important that China has agreed to use science-based guidelines for future decisions about accepting imports. It was clear early on in the H1N1 outbreak that pork and hogs were not a threat, that hogs were not carriers and pork was safe to eat. Having a promise from such a major market is vital for agricultural exporters,” Nilsestuen said.
Wisconsin produced 842,000 head of hogs in 2009, with about 360,000 head on farms at any one time. When the H1N1 virus first appeared in April 2009, the price of hogs fell by about 17 percent. It has since rebounded, closing at about $73/hundredweight Thursday. It is expected that reopening the Chinese market will push it higher.
Meanwhile, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin has joined Wisconsin Congressman Dave Obey in introducing a resolution commemorating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, 2010, and honoring the founder of Earth Day, the late Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold will introduce a companion resolution in the Senate.
“Gaylord Nelson recognized that the best way to save the planet was to get the people involved. Through Earth Day, he reminded us that preserving our environment, finding renewable sources of energy, eradicating poverty, and ensuring health care for all, will not be achieved by the words of politicians, but by the will of the people. He left a powerful and lasting legacy,” Baldwin said.
“The fortieth anniversary of Earth Day is a great day to call attention to the many environmental and public health challenges that face everyone on the planet. It is also a great opportunity to reflect on the history of the Earth Day movement and to pay tribute to one of recent history’s great statesmen and founding father of the movement, our former Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson,” Obey said.
Earth Day was “born” in September, 1969. In a speech, Senator Nelson suggested that, just as Americans had been involved in “teach-ins” to protest the Vietnam War, the country should also set aside a day to call attention to the environmental problems facing our planet and to demand that Congress address those pressing issues.
The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, brought together 20 million people and gave rise to the modern American environmental movement. Forty years later, as many as one billion people globally may participate in Earth Day 2010 on April 22, 2010.
In addition to founding Earth Day, and among numerous legislative accomplishments, Senator Gaylord Nelson was responsible for legislation that created the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and the St. Croix Wild and Scenic Riverway, and sponsored legislation to ban phosphates in household detergents.