By Liz Wagstrom, NPPC Chief Veterinarian
The U.S. pork industry wants to ensure consumers here at home and around the world are supplied with safe, wholesome pork. Thanks to vigilant diligence by the USDA and the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, we have been able to keep numerous foreign animal diseases (FADs) outside our borders.
The agriculture community worked very hard to ensure the 2018 Farm Bill included funding for a U.S. foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccine bank, and farmers made their voices heard at Farm Bill listening sessions, stressing the importance of the bank. Under the Farm Bill, USDA is authorized to use $150 million over the next five years for an FMD vaccine bank, for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and for state efforts to prepare for any foreign animal disease outbreak. The bill also gives Agriculture Secretary Perdue discretion to dedicate additional funding for this critical initiative.
FMD can infect all cloven-hooved animals. Therefore, an FMD outbreak would cripple the entire agricultural sector and have long-lasting ramifications for the economic viability of U.S. crop and livestock production. An FMD outbreak would immediately close all export markets to U.S. pork, as well as other commodities, and according to Iowa State University economists, it would translate into more than $128 billion in losses for the beef and pork sectors, losses of $44 billion and $25 billion, respectively, to the corn and soybean farmers, and job losses of more than 1.5 million, industry-wide.
Unfortunately, the U.S. does not have quick-enough access to an FMD vaccine to handle more than a very small, localized outbreak of a limited number of strains. Since FMD includes 24 different strains present in many countries we need to increase both the number of strains we have and the number of doses of each of those strains. Vaccine manufacturing capacity is not adequate to supply vaccine on demand. Turnaround time to produce enough vaccine would be weeks for a small outbreak and months for a large one. That’s why an adequate FMD vaccine bank is necessary.
The National Pork Producers Council views a U.S. vaccine bank as the best insurance policy to respond to an FMD outbreak in the United States. As with most insurance policies, we hope to never use it, but it’s paramount that we have fast access to enough vaccine if we ever need it. We appreciate that USDA has begun work on establishing the bank and we urge the agency move expeditiously, given its importance.
U.S. pork producers are already hurting as a result of trade disruptions caused by retaliatory tariffs. An FMD outbreak, without implementing the vaccine bank, would be devastating to our nation’s rural economy. That’s why establishing an FMD vaccine bank is so essential and we urge USDA to make its implementation a high priority. We want to continue to ensure we produce the safest, wholesome pork for consumers all across the globe.
As chief veterinarian, Liz Wagstrom leads NPPC’s science and technology advocacy efforts. She holds Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Masters of Preventative Medicine degrees from Iowa State University.
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