Warning of the dire economic consequences of an outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD), swine veterinarians from around the country descended upon Capitol Hill this week. Their mission: To urge congressional lawmakers to establish an offshore vaccine bank to help quickly control and eradicate the animal disease.
The 23 veterinarians are in town as part of the Swine Veterinarian Public Policy Advocacy Program of the National Pork Producers Council, which has made creating a robust FMD vaccine bank its top priority for the 2018 Farm Bill.
FMD is an infectious and sometimes-fatal viral disease that affects cloven-hooved animals, including cattle and pigs; it is not a food safety or human health threat. Although the disease was last detected in the United States in 1929, it is endemic in many parts of the world.
According to Iowa State University economists, an FMD outbreak in the United States, which would prompt countries to close their markets to U.S. meat exports and create a surplus of meat on the domestic market, would cost the beef and pork industries a combined $128 billion over 10 years if livestock producers weren’t able to combat the disease through vaccination. The corn and soybean industries would lose over a decade $44 billion and $25 billion, respectively; and economy-wide job losses would top 1.5 million.
“The U.S. swine industry needs the capacity to produce enough FMD vaccine to quickly stop the virus from spreading and then to eradicate this pathogen, and we need Congress to provide the funds to make that happen,” said Dr. Gordon Spronk, a swine veterinarian who practices in Minnesota and surrounding states, who participated in the program. “The U.S. pork industry, indeed the entire U.S. economy, would be severely affected by an FMD outbreak, which has become more likely in this country with the free flow around the globe of goods and people.”
A recent paper from former USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Administrator Dr. Ron DeHaven and other prominent veterinarians confirmed the need for an FMD vaccine bank and concluded that the vaccine must be produced overseas given that current U.S. law forbids storing live FMD virus on the U.S. mainland and because of the risk of accidental release of the virus if it were stored in the United States. Read the paper at https://live-ccms.pantheonsite.io/sites/default/files/FMD-Vaccine-Bank.pdf.
NPPC is asking Congress to include in the next Farm Bill – hearings on which already are underway – language directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to:
Contract with an offshore, vendor-maintained vaccine bank that would have available FMD antigen concentrate to protect against all 23 of the most common FMD strains currently circulating in the world.
Maintain a vendor-managed inventory of 10 million doses of vaccine, which is the estimated need for the first two weeks of an outbreak.
Contract with an international manufacturer or manufacturers for the capacity to produce at least 40 million doses.
The cost of establishing an FMD vaccine bank, according to another Iowa State analysis, is estimated to be $150 million annually, an amount that pales in comparison to the $20 billion yearly cost of an outbreak to the beef, pork, corn and soybean sectors alone, NPPC has pointed out.