Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa and current U.S. secretary of agriculture, announces a federal order to require mandatory reporting of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus cases from U.S. farms. Vilsack made his first appearance at the World Pork Expo since becoming head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2009. He also announced $26 million would be made immediately available for producers, research and other efforts into stemming the deadly virus.
Tom Vilsack, former governor of Iowa and current U.S. secretary of agriculture, announces a federal order to require mandatory reporting of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus cases from U.S. farms. Vilsack made his first appearance at the World Pork Expo since becoming head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2009. He also announced $26 million would be made immediately available for producers, research and other efforts into stemming the deadly virus.
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.

$26 Million Available

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 rule.

“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.

Will Take Time

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 2014.

“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.