Pork Industry Needs Additional ASF-Prevention Measures

African swine fever is threatening China's massive pork industry. ( MGN )

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and 30 state pork producer associations asked Agriculture Secretary Perdue on Thursday to take additional measures to protect the U.S. pork industry from African swine fever (ASF).

"We appreciate the diligent focus and outstanding collaboration between the U.S. pork industry, USDA, CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Protection], Congress and state animal health officials to protect the U.S. swine herd," said NPPC President David Herring, a hog farmer from Lillington, N.C., in a NPPC release.

But pork industry leaders say more efforts are necessary to prevent ASF from hitting U.S. soil, including restricting imports of organic soy products for animal feeds from all ASF-positive countries.

"While we are confident in the safety of domestic soy products, we urge Secretary Perdue to use authority under the Animal Health Protection Act to restrict imports of organic soy products from ASF-positive countries to further safeguard our animals and prevent an outbreak that would have devastating, far-reaching economic consequences," Herring said in an NPPC release.

The U.S. pork and feed industries have worked together to adopt holding times based on research to allow for the natural degradation of any viruses, to ensure that most imported feed ingredients are safe to use.

Organic soy products can maintain the virus for longer periods of time, the research shows, making holding times impractical. NPPC is confident in the safety of domestic soy products, the release said. However, although overall imports of feed ingredients are minimal, most soy products imported by the U.S. are organic.

The letter urges Secretary Perdue and USDA to further explore the merit of restricting all soy products from ASF-positive countries, to enhance its online system that would be used for permitting animal movements if an outbreak occurred and to expand state animal health laboratory testing capacity. 

ASF, an animal disease affecting only pigs with no human health or food safety risks, continues to spread throughout parts of Europe and Asia. To help prevent ASF and other foreign animal diseases from entering the U.S, the U.S. House of Representatives recently approved Senate legislation that authorizes funding for 720 new agricultural inspectors at land, air and sea ports. The legislation also authorizes 600 new agricultural technicians and 60 new agricultural canine teams.  

The most likely path for a FAD to enter the country would be through the illegal transport of contaminated products, NPPC said in the release. An outbreak of certain FADs, including ASF, would immediately close U.S. pork export markets, causing significant damage to farmers and consumers. This makes FAD preparedness measures, including quickly establishing a U.S. Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine bank as provided for in the 2018 Farm Bill, imperative.

The pork producer associations who signed this letter include: Arkansas Pork Producers Association, California Pork Producers Association, Colorado Pork Producers Council, Hawaii Pork Producers, Idaho Pork Producers Association, Illinois Pork Producers Association, Indiana Pork Producers Association, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Kansas Pork Association, Kentucky Pork Producers Association, Louisiana Pork Producers Association, Michigan Pork Producers Association, Minnesota Pork Producers Association, Mississippi Pork Producers Association, Missouri Pork Association, Montana Pork Producers Council, Nebraska Pork Producers Association, Inc., New York Pork Producers Co-op, North Carolina Pork Council, North Dakota Pork Council, Ohio Pork Council, Oklahoma Pork Council, Oregon Pork Producers, Pennsylvania Pork Producers Council, South Dakota Pork Producers Council, Tennessee Pork Producers Association, Texas Pork Producers Association, Utah Pork Producers, Virginia Pork Council, Inc., and the Wisconsin Pork Association.