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Ag groups demand FMD vaccine bank to protect farming sector

A coalition of more than 100 farm organizations and businesses have called on the US government to create a vaccine bank in case of future outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

In a letter sent to members of the Senate and House agriculture committees, the coalition warned that an outbreak of FMD would have devastating effects on the country’s entire farming sector, and impact on food security and affordability.

The damage caused by a potential outbreak could only be mitigated if the country was able to mount a swift response to it, something that is “entirely reliant” on having an adequate vaccine bank, it said.

Signed by organizations including the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), the Animal Health Institute and Zoetis, the letter said a vaccine bank — which would cost $150m near to run — was the only option to prevent “catastrophic losses” created by FMD outbreaks.

While the cost of establishing a robust FMD vaccine bank is significant, it pales in comparison to the projected economic consequences to the agriculture industry and to the nation’s food and national security, the coalition added.

“An outbreak of FMD would immediately close all export markets. The cumulative impact of an outbreak on the beef and pork sectors over a 10-year period would be more than $128 billion, according to Iowa State University economists,” the group wrote.

“And that is just the monetary impact. It must also be considered that many livestock producers may not be able to recover from these losses, to the severe detriment of rural communities across this country.”

Jim Heimerl, president-elect of the NPPC, said an outbreak of FMD in the US would be devastating for the country’s pig industry.

“The next Farm Bill must establish and fully fund a vaccine bank that gives us the ability to quickly control then eradicate this animal disease,” he said.

Currently the US only has enough FMD vaccine to handle a small, localized outbreak of the disease.

If an outbreak did occur, the antigen would need to be shipped from the current vaccine bank at Plum Island, New York, to manufacturers in England or France to be turned into finished vaccine, before being shipped back to the United States.

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