The USDA announced measures Wednesday to prevent the spread of African swine fever (ASF) to the U.S. The risk of ASF – an animal disease affecting only pigs and with no human health or food safety risks – is growing as outbreaks continue throughout China and other parts of Asia.
"U.S. pork producers are already facing headwinds in the form of trade disputes with key export markets; an outbreak of ASF would be devastating," says NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnston, Ohio. "With no available vaccine, prevention is our only defense."
In coordination with the pork industry, USDA’s Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Greg Ibach, announced the following enhanced activities to intensify multi-agency efforts toward the prevention of ASF’s entry into the U.S.:
• Coordination with Customs and Border Patrol:
-Expand the "Beagle Brigade" by 60 new teams for a total of 179 beagle teams at key U.S. airports and sea ports.
-Increase arrival screenings at key U.S. airports and sea ports, including checking cargo for illegal pork/pork products and ensuring travelers who pose an ASF risk receive secondary agricultural inspection.
• Ramped up inspections and enforcement of garbage feeding facilities to ensure fed garbage is cooked properly to prevent potential disease spread.
• Increased producer awareness, including importance of self-evaluations of on-farm biosecurity procedures.
• Research on accurate and reliable testing procedures to screen for the virus in grains, feeds and additives, and swine oral fluid samples.
• Collaboration with officials in Canada and Mexico on a North American-coordinated approach to ASF defense, response and trade maintenance.
• Coordination with the U.S. pork industry leadership to assure unified efforts to combat ASF.
“We understand the grave concerns about the ASF situation overseas,” Ibach says. “We are committed to working with the swine industry, our producers, other government agencies, and neighboring countries to take these additional steps.”
Dave Pyburn, DVM, senior vice president of science and technology for the National Pork Board, says he’s pleased to see this action by USDA to further strengthen U.S. borders against all diseases.
“We are all focused on ASF at this time, but the action they are taking with the beagles, feed testing and garbage feeding facilities are good first steps to protect our country from all diseases,” Pyburn says.
He’s especially pleased that the Beagle Brigade will be brought up to full team status as believes the No.1 risk of ASF entering the U.S. is through illegal meat products carrying the virus, either on tourists or through commercial channels. Beagles are helping protect all of those ports, Pyburn says.
“We’d like to see the Beagle Brigade maintained going into the future,” he adds. “The risks won’t get smaller. If anything, the risks will increase.”