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USDA announces Swine Fever response plan

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
USDA maintains that prevention remains the top priority in battling African Swine Fever.

The USDA believes that prevention is still the number one priority in battling a potential outbreak of African swine fever.

USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach announced an African swine fever (ASF) action plan should the swine-only disease be detected in the United States while speaking at the National Pork Industry Forum.

African swine fever is a highly contagious and deadly viral disease affecting both domestic and wild pigs of all ages. After the virus was first detected in China in August 2018, it spread quickly as both farmers and local officials were reluctant to report the disease. The meat industry estimates the disease has shrunk China’s 440 million hog herd by more than half, according to Reuters.

There is no treatment or vaccine available for this disease. The only way to stop this disease is to depopulate all affected or exposed swine herds.To date, the United States is free of African swine fever.

In the event that the disease is detected in the US, US Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue would immediately declare an "extraordinary emergency". In doing so, the USDA would be established as the leader of a national, coordinated response to control and eradicate the swine disease, which poses no human health or food safety risks. By declaring an extraordinary emergency, the USDA ensures the availability of funding and other resources to effectively manage response.

"We are grateful to Secretary Perdue and Under Secretary Ibach for hearing the concerns of U.S. pork producers," said David Herring, NPPC president and a pork producer from Lillington, North Carolina in a news release. "We remain committed to working with the USDA and Customs and Border Protection to keep ASF out of the United States."  

Other elements of the USDA response plan include:

  • A national stop-movement of pigs order of at least 72-hours with an eye toward restoring movement on a regionalized basis as soon as possible.
  • Depopulation efforts aligned with guidance from the American Veterinary Medical Association and in coordination with state animal health officials and the industry.
  • Support for carcass disposal in line with regional and local requirements (composting and burial in place identified as preferred options.
  • Payments for virus elimination at a uniform, flat rate based on the size of affected premises.

The resulting shortages in China have seen pork prices more than double. The country's pork imports were on pace to double to more than 2 million tons in 2019, according to Gavekal, a financial services company based in Hong Kong.