Remaining Vigilant To Ensure African Swine Fever Remains Outside U.S.

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We have reached an auspicious anniversary—it’s been one year since African swine fever (ASF) was reported in China’s swine herd. It has been estimated that the number of sows China has lost to ASF is more than the entire U.S. sow herd. While this deadly disease–affecting only pigs and with no human health or food safety risks–has thankfully not made its way to the United States, it’s important we remain vigilant to prevent the spread of ASF and other animal diseases. To ensure this occurs, HOTH wanted to remind readers of the critical need for more agricultural inspectors at our borders and ports.

If a foreign animal disease (FAD) such as ASF, Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) or classical swine fever were to enter the U.S. swine herd, it would cause billions of dollars in losses due to animal deaths, depopulation, disposal and cleanup costs. It would also immediately close the export markets on which U.S. pork producers depend. The most likely path for a FAD to enter the country would be through the importation of infected animals or contaminated products. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has the regulatory authority to decline or permit entry of animals and products, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) implements and enforces the USDA rules.

USDA has taken numerous steps to protect our animals and the overall rural economy. The agency has enhanced its ASF preparedness efforts by implementing a surveillance plan, working with the swine industry, states and veterinary diagnostic laboratories to test for the disease and recently announced additional funding for 60 new canine teams to bring the BCBP’s “Beagle Brigade” to full strength. However, BCBP’s established staffing levels indicate they are short approximately 600 agricultural inspectors. This is far less than the number of inspectors needed to protect U.S. agriculture in the face of a growing global epidemic of ASF and other diseases that threaten plant and animal health in the United States.

Therefore, NPPC is requesting that Congress, through the Homeland Security and Agricultural Appropriations Committees, immediately provide critically needed funding for 600 new BCBP agricultural inspectors. NPPC also urges BCBP and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to negotiate an increase in inspection user fees, so stable, long-term funding is available to sustain the level of inspection required to protect U.S. agriculture from the growing threat of pests and diseases.

Additionally, NPPC is urging USDA to use the funds provided by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill for an FMD vaccine bank, needed to quickly contain and eradicate an outbreak and prevent catastrophic financial losses for the agriculture economy. While there is no vaccine for ASF, current vaccines for FMD work well.

NPPC and the entire pork industry remains vigilant in keeping ASF and other FADs out of the United States. Working with USDA and BCBP, HOTH believes we will continue to have strong protections at our nation’s borders, ensuring consumers here at home and around the world are supplied with safe, wholesome pork.