It’s been a new world since African swine fever hit China.
The largest pork industry event, the World Pork Expo, was canceled by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) on April 10 “out of an abundance of caution” as African swine fever (ASF) continues to spread in China and other parts of Asia.
This isn’t the first time, however, that the World Pork Expo has been canceled in an effort to protect the well-being of the U.S. swine herd. In 2001, the World Pork Expo was canceled after Europe suffered an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
Barb Determan, former NPPC president, remembers that year vividly. NPPC was going through the settlement separating NPPC from the National Pork Board.
“We were short-staffed,” she recalls. “Everyone on the board had their sleeves rolled up, doing a lot of work. We all had different strengths and it just happened to be my year as president. I think I did 42 interviews on the day the news broke that we were canceling the 2001 World Pork Expo.”
Many of the interviews were with journalists worldwide, Determan says.
“They wanted to know why we’d do such a silly thing,” she says. “They were living in the middle of foot-and-mouth disease. In the U.S., we weren’t. We were not experienced with any foreign animal disease.”
It was a much different time than it is now, she adds. In 2001, England produced more product for export and supplied breeding stock.
Not an Easy Decision
Determan knows there are many different feelings out there regarding the cancellation of World Pork Expo, but ultimately this decision gives her even more confidence in the NPPC Board of Director’s commitment to do whatever it takes to protect the U.S. swine industry.
“Personally, I’m sad that World Pork Expo is canceled, it’s a time to see many long-time industry friends,” she says. “But, boy, it’s the right decision. Few people remember that we did cancel in 2001. We have new people in the industry who were not around during that time. This shows me that we have a growing and very vibrant industry that continues to attract a lot of great, talented people.”
She says that’s the silver lining in all of this – the opportunity to step back and see the industry’s growth.
Determan hopes this decision also provides USDA the opportunity to see the pork industry’s commitment.
“We’re not just asking the government for additional beagles and inspectors,” she says. “We’re making a huge commitment by canceling World Pork Expo to keep our industry safe.”
Throughout her term as president, Determan learned that it’s important to stop and evaluate every so often.
“You’re fighting fires so fast in moments like these – it’s very hard to stop and think about what we can do differently next time and how we can improve,” she says.
She believes the current NPPC Board of Directors will be a major asset.
“This is an outstanding board of directors and they’ll be able to help make those observations,” Determan says.