When 20,000 pork producers and agricultural professionals gather together in Des Moines, Iowa, each year for the World Pork Expo, the result is nothing short of spectacular.
“It’s a really important event for us,” Jim Monroe, senior communications director at National Pork Producers Council, said on AgriTalk with host Chip Flory on Wednesday. “It’s one we enjoy hosting.”
Unfortunately, NPPC had to make a difficult decision on Wednesday to cancel the 2019 World Pork Expo out of an abundance of caution as African swine fever (ASF) spreads in China and surrounding countries.
“The fact that African swine fever is present in China’s herd just raises the risk globally for spread and one of our biggest priorities right now is to keep it out of the United States,” Monroe said. “So, while we think the risk of it spreading because of World Pork Expo is very, very remote, we still decided to exercise extreme caution and make this decision.”
The health of the U.S. swine herd and the livelihood of American pig farmers is a top priority for NPPC. Monroe said the risk is low because of increased border control efforts and biosecurity protocols
“But we can't say that the risk is zero,” he said. “We will have guests from regions of the world that are African swine fever positive.”
Flory asked why extreme measures were being put into place even though the disease is not on U.S. soils at this time.
“As you know, there is no vaccine for ASF, so containing it and eradicating it would be very challenging. It would be devastating to our farmers as it would close our export markets at a time we're already facing serious trade headwinds,” Monroe said.
More than 100 pork producers are meeting with lawmakers in Washington, DC, this week for the NPPC Legislative Action Conference.
“Animal disease prevention and preparedness is at the top of the list in those discussions,” he said. “One of the things our farmers will ask for is Congress to appropriate funding for 600 more ag inspectors. Customs and Border Protection has been strengthening our country’s biosecurity efforts. We think need more ag inspectors will help that.”
NPPC leaders were unified in this decision to cancel World Pork Expo and sought input from pork producers around the country, Monroe added.
“It’s been a tough decision to make, but it seems like it’s a sound decision that needed to be made,” Flory agreed.
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