7 Perspectives on African Swine Fever

finishing pigs white SB
( Sara Brown )

The news of African swine fever’s spread across Europe and Asia this year has many producers and business leaders concerned about what could happen in 2019. From the Beagle Brigade to vaccines and from wild pigs to cultural differences, here are seven different perspectives covered by Farm Journal’s PORK.

1. African Swine Fever’s Tragedy of the Commons

No matter how many miles separate China and the U.S., they are connected by shared and limited resources. As African swine fever (ASF) wages war on the world’s largest pork-producing nation, it also threatens the U.S. Whether we like it or not, we are all in this together, says Gordon Spronk, DVM, of Pipestone Veterinary Services. He believes this relationship can best be explained by the “tragedy of the commons” concept. Read more

2. Deadly Terrorist Threatens the Lone Star State’s Domestic Pig Herd

One of the deadliest enemies in Texas – the wild pig – is sparking fear as threats of ASF hitting U.S. soil dance across the headlines. 
“Wild pigs are agricultural and environmental terrorists number one,” says John Tomecek, assistant professor and wildlife specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. “They destroy the environment and carry diseases that can spread to humans and domestic pig herds.”

There’s no doubt that an outbreak of ASF in Texas would be devastating, he says. Read more.

3. Lessons Learned From PEDV Could Keep ASF Out of the U.S.

A new risk threatens the swine industry. Researchers have found that under experimental conditions, the right virus paired with the right feed ingredient could potentially survive a journey across the ocean and enter the U.S. feed supply.

When Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus (PEDV) erupted in the U.S. in 2013, the Pipestone System escaped the initial wrath of this devastating disease. But in early January 2014, several of the system’s farms became infected at approximately the same time. Read more.

4. Beagle Brigade Protection: Agriculture’s Not-So-Secret Canine Weapons
U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Agriculture Canine (K9) Hardy captured America’s heart when he discovered a 2 lb. cooked pig in checked luggage at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Not long before that, one of his canine pals found pork sausages in canisters of baby formula at Washington Dulles International Airport.

Sound a little crazy to you? Kevin Harriger, executive director for agriculture programs and trade liaison with CBP, says these stories are anything but unusual. 

“People will go to great lengths to bring in something they want,” Harriger says. “Most people don’t make the nexus between epidemiology and the spread of a foreign animal disease. They think if they want ham, they’ll bring ham into the U.S. with them. It’s that simple to them.” Read more.

5. Keep ASF Vaccine News in Perspective
The toll ASF is taking on pork production worldwide is alarming, to say the least. ASF continues to spread in China, though sources say we are only hearing about 10% of the cases that are occurring. Reports of Chinese hog producers avoiding blockades of affected areas to sell diseased hogs in places where prices are doubling the average prices in the U.S. makes my stomach turn.

At times, it feels like a no-win situation. It’s easy to get emotional and believe what you want to believe. But this is where science comes in and can help us make more sense of a not so-black-and white situation.
Recently, a news release came out about a new vaccine to be licensed for ASF. Although I’m optimistic progress is taking place, it’s important to note it is still early in the process. Read more.

6. Going to an ASF-Positive Country? Pork Industry Says "Declare It!”
To increase transparency and accountability, the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) released a protocol Wednesday for declaring farm visits in countries with ASF to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
When returning to the United States after visiting a farm or being in contact with animals in a country (or countries) with ASF, or any other foreign animal disease, travelers should declare this information to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol via written form, airport kiosk or verbally. Then he or she should be diverted for an ag secondary screening by an ag specialist. Read more.

7. 2019 Pork Outlook: Trade Optimism and Runaway Supply
ASF remains a double-edged sword to the U.S. pork industry. If we get trade issues behind us, Craig Morris, vice president of international marketing at the National Pork Board, says significant production constraints in China due to ASF could result in China looking outside their borders for pork. 

But if they have widescale death loss, what will happen to domestic demand?

“Both beef and broiler prices have increased in China,” Morris says. “But, nationally we are not seeing that for pork. That gives me a measure of concern. If they are liquidating hogs, in theory they’d have less pork available and you’d expect prices would go up across the board.” Read more.