U.S. House Approves Funding for More Ag Inspectors

Trucks approach the U.S. border from Mexico at the Nogales Port of Entry into Nogales, Ariz. ( Daniel Vanderhorst )

On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved an additional $19.6 million in funding for more agricultural inspectors at land, air and seaports to prevent African swine fever (ASF) and other foreign animal diseases (FAD) from entering U.S. borders.

This funding, included in the fiscal year 2020 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, is a top priority for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), according to a NPPC statement.

"For more than a year, NPPC has advocated for an increase in the number of agricultural inspectors at our borders," said NPPC President David Herring, a pork producer from Lillington, N.C., in a NPPC statement.

The most likely path for a FAD to enter the country would be through the importation of infected animals or contaminated products. An outbreak of certain FADs would immediately close U.S. pork export markets, with significant harm to our farmers, consumers and overall economy.

"We applaud the House, especially Reps. Vela, Thompson, Peterson, Axne, Carbajal, Gonzalez, Costa, Rouzer and Fortenberry, for approving an essential provision to reduce the risk of ASF and other FADs and to protect the rural economy from a devastating outbreak. We also thank the USDA and Customs and Border Protection for all they have done to strengthen U.S. biosecurity," Herring said in the statement.

NPPC continues to advocate for other FAD preparedness measures, including establishing a U.S. Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine bank as provided for in the 2018 Farm Bill.

It’s critical to note that FMD, an infectious viral disease that affects cloven-hooved animals, including cattle, pigs and sheep, it is not a food safety or human health threat. The disease is endemic in many regions of the world and would have widespread, long-term fallout for U.S. livestock and crop agriculture, including the immediate loss of export markets.

The United States does not currently have access to enough vaccine to quickly contain and eradicate an FMD outbreak. An outbreak would result in $128 billion in losses for the beef and pork sectors, according to Iowa State University research. It would also cause losses of $44 billion and $25 billion, respectively, to corn and soybean farmers, and more than 1.5 million lost jobs across U.S. agriculture over 10 years.

Related on Farm Journal's PORK: 

Agriculture Groups Urge USDA to Establish FMD Vaccine Bank

Low FMD Vaccine Bank Leaves U.S. Pigs and Cattle Vulnerable to Disease

Farm Journal's PORK African swine fever resource center