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Webb: FAD outbreak could be financially crippling for US pork industry

A single reported incident of a trade-limiting foreign animal disease (FAD) would devastate the US pork industry, perhaps causing billions of dollars in losses, according to Patrick Webb, DVM, director of swine health programs for the National Pork Board (NPB).

“The minute an FAD is reported, there’s a very high probability that our trading partners will cut us off,” Webb told Pig Health Today.

Three FADs have a major impact on limiting exports of pork: foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), African swine fever (ASF) and classical swine fever (CSF). ASF, which has no vaccine, has received the most attention in recent months as it steadily marches through China and parts of Europe.

Webb noted that the US currently exports about 27% of its pork. “That would put 27% more pork back on the US market and absolutely wreck the pork industry,” he said.

Ripple effect

There could also be a ripple effect on the entire agriculture industry, he said. He added that with a glut of cheap pork on the US market, the pork industry could possibly out-compete the poultry industry on low prices. He said industries such as corn and soybean would also see losses in revenue.

“That’s just because the agricultural economy is so tied together. And so if one sector is hurting because of a disease issue, it usually ends up hurting others,” he said.

There will be costs to state and federal agencies as well, including euthanasia and disposal expenses as well as measures to contain and eradicate the disease, Webb added.

The US has been free of trade-limiting FADs since 1978. In those 40 years the pork industry has changed dramatically, Webb said.

“We’re moving a million pigs a day across the country,” he said. “So, we have to have the tools and the technology to keep up with that in order to help the state and federal animal-health officials.”

Then there’s the issue of the illegal international movement of meat and meat products that could potentially transmit the virus to pigs.

“So, I think from the US perspective we’re always at some risk,” he said.

Preparing for outbreaks

He said that both the industry and federal government agencies have been working to prepare for an outbreak. Officials from the US Customs and Border Patrol and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have taken aggressive steps to strengthen vetting measures at the border in an effort to ensure that travelers, particularly those arriving from countries with FADs, do not bring in contraband meat products.

“There’s a lot of work going on at the national level to try to interdict that kind of stuff,” Webb said. “The USDA has an ASF response plan. There’s one for CSF and there’s one for FMD.”

In addition, he said the NPB has developed fact sheets and other information that pork producers could use to prepare for an outbreak. Together with USDA, Pork Checkoff, a program of the NPB, has funded the Secure Pork Supply Plan, which aims to keep pigs flowing from unaffected farms. The plan allows producers to share information with state animal-health officials during emergencies in order to facilitate movement, Webb said.

“We’ve also got education outreach on pork supply which covers business continuity and the database system and the dashboard system,” Webb said.

While he said there’s still some work to be done, he believes the industry’s emergency preparation efforts are strong.

“If we have it tomorrow, we can still respond,” he said.



Watch the full interview or each part separately:

Full interview: FAD outbreak could be financially crippling for US pork industry

Part 1: African swine fever in the US — a matter of if or when?

Part 2: Economic impact of ASF on the US

Part 3: Learning from Europe’s experience with ASF

Part 4: Preparing for the possibility of ASF in the US


Posted on March 3, 2019

tags: , ,
  • AgView: Contact tracing for ASF and much more

    African swine fever (ASF) has spread like a slow burn across the globe since the 2007 identification in the Republic of Georgia. It moved into the EU, then into China and across Asia. In 2021, for the first time in 40 years, ASF was discovered in the Dominican...

  • Canada develops plan to market hogs during ASF outbreak

    Efforts are underway in Canada to develop an ASF-Free Compartments strategy allowing farms to market hogs in the event of an African swine fever (ASF) outbreak.

  • New group prepares for possible ASF outbreak

    The new Swine Health Improvement Program developed by pork producers, state veterinarians and USDA is designed to help the pork industry maintain exports in the face of a foreign animal disease outbreak.

  • First-hand ASF experience offers lessons for US industry

    Plan for the worst; hope for the best. That’s good advice for many situations but particularly accurate when it comes to African swine fever (ASF).

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