December 10, 2023

NPPC vet: Producers can, should be involved in ASF preparations

DES MOINES, Iowa — If one sentence proved the need to listen to Liz Wagstrom, it was the matter-of-fact statement from Dermot Hayes, just an hour earlier and a few buildings away from where Wagstrom spoke.

“Germany was a top two or three exporter to China. They had African swine fever and they lost that business,” said Hayes, professor of economics and finance at Iowa State University and a noted ag and livestock economist.

Hayes was giving a standing-room-only audience an economic outlook for the U.S. pork industry during the recent World Pork Expo.

That African swine fever would upend the U.S. swine industry and lay waste to U.S. pork exports — and along with it, feed demand from that sector — is a fact that Wagstrom and others have front of mind as they continue to work on prevention as well as preparedness throughout the U.S. pork industry and the U.S. transportation sector.

“I think one of the things that we need to be aware of is that producers are going to need to play a part in the response,” said Wagstrom during a National Pork Producers Council issues update media conference at the World Pork Expo.

Wagstrom, chief veterinarian for the NPPC, said efforts include a task force of members of the NPPC and Pork Checkoff boards and staffs.

Prevention and keeping African swine fever from entering the country is a top priority for the task force.

That means working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and keeping CBP officers educated and updated on African swine fever outbreaks around the world.

It also meant keeping funding levels for the agency maintained when the COVID-19 pandemic reduced air travel.

“We’ve worked hard with over 200 agricultural groups to make sure Customs and Border Protection is fully funded. They are funded from airline ticket user fees. Over the pandemic, there was a major there was a major shortfall to the tune of $635 million. Our staff worked really hard to put together a coalition that was able to get that funding in the omnibus bills and another $285 million in last year’s budget,” Wagstrom said.

CBP agents are regularly updated on African swine fever and where outbreaks have occurred around the globe, as well as what products and items could spread African swine fever into the United States.

Wagstrom also pointed out that the U.S. Department of Agriculture works with the CBP.

“It’s truly been an industry and government effort to coordinate and make sure we are protecting U.S. agriculture,” Wagstrom said.

But she emphasized that producers need to be proactive on the prevention and the preparation levels.

“We cannot count on state and federal veterinary authorities to be able to come in and handle everything,” she said.

For producers, Wagstrom listed several priority to do list items:

• Sign up for Secure Pork Supply.

• Sign up for a free AgView account through Pork Checkoff.

• Look at the U.S. Swine Health Improvement Plan for ideas on how to further improve biosecurity on the farm.

• Make sure you know who your state veterinarian is.

• Make sure you know who your federal veterinarians are.

• Make sure you know what state agency, in your specific state, would be in charge if farms had to depopulate and dispose of dead animals.

“There’s a lot that can be done ahead of time when producers realize they are going to have responsibility in an outbreak. We are making progress,” Wagstrom said.

Jeannine Otto

Jeannine Otto

Field Editor