DES MOINES, Iowa — There was a lot he could say, and a lot
he did say, but to deliver the big message, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom
Vilsack spoke directly to the audience at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
“Today, a federal order is being issued which will require
producers, should they be impacted and affected by an infection, to notify us of
that fact,” Vilsack said.
Mandatory reporting of PEDV, porcine epidemic diarrhea
virus, which has spread to 23 states, affected some 7,000 farms and killed close
to seven million pigs in the U.S., is now in effect.
The mandatory reporting rule includes collaboration with
notification of the farm’s herd veterinarian or a state veterinarian or
veterinarians at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Vilsack said. It also
includes development of a disease management plan.
“That will allow us to better manage, trace and control the
circumstance on the farm,” Vilsack said.
Few details about how the reporting will be done and what
information will be collected were available as Vilsack, visiting the World Pork
Expo for the first time since becoming secretary in 2009, delivered the news. He
is a former governor of Iowa.
“This order goes into effect immediately, and we will work
with the industry to develop templates for implementation plans. We will work
with the industry to identify biosecurity measures that we think are most
successful,” he said.
Vilsack also announced funding, some $26 million, including
$4 million for research and development of a vaccine and more than $11 million
in cost-share funds for biosecurity measures.
“We understand and appreciate that when such a requirement
is created, it places the onus financially on producers, and we also know that
pork producers have themselves advanced significant resources in order to
identify a pathway of these viruses. We also know that it is important and
necessary for the federal government to be more than just a partner in word, but
also in deed, so accompanying this order will be resources from the federal
government,” he said.
Vilsack said more than $500,000 will be made available for
producers to help develop herd management plans, and several million dollars
would be allocated to state departments of agriculture.
He emphasized that no restrictions are in place with the
rule, which became effective immediately.
“There is no restriction of movement here. There is no
quarantine requirement. This is a reporting requirement, a notification
requirement and in the long-term best interests of the operator and the
industry,” he said.
Vilsack didn’t say what the penalties will be for
noncompliance, but he alluded that the government has the power to enforce the
“I trust producers that they understand it’s in their best
interest to work with us. This is not something where they or we or the industry
benefits from not complying with this request. There are obviously a wide
variety of actions that an agency can take in the face of widespread ignoring
what we’re asking for,” he said later in a press conference.
Vilsack was joined at the press conference by Dr. John
Clifford, chief veterinarian for USDA.
Clifford said although the rule is effective immediately, it
could be weeks before it is implemented.
“We know it’s going to take a number of weeks. We plan on
about four weeks before we can say it’s fully implemented but it’s effective
immediately,” he said.
Vilsack responded to concerns that confidential information
about farms could end up spilled to activist groups, in the same manner that the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, responding to a Freedom of Information Act
request, released confidential farm information to activist groups earlier in
“We are going to work as best we can to maintain this
information in an appropriate way. My guess is that the information will be more
based on a numerical process. Farms that have already done business with the
USDA have a number,” he said.
Vilsack said that getting some control over PEDV is of vital
importance in maintaining both strong domestic demand for pork and strong demand
for US pork exports.
“Producers can’t afford to see millions of pigs die. It’s
estimated we’ve lost roughly 10 percent of herds already. That not only impacts
and affects producer income, it also affects access to product which, in turn,
limits our export opportunities and, in turn, limits the amount of pork that’s
available for consumers. This results in rising consumer cost,” he said.
Vilsack also emphasized, with a throng of both agricultural
media and national media in the room, that PEDV poses no danger to humans.