When talks on the farm bill are underway, National Pork Producers are often very quiet, but when negotiations for the 2018 farm bill begin, pork, and other commodity groups do have a specific ‘ask’. Dr. Liz Wagstrom, Chief Veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council explains:
“That’s right we’re working very closely with the cattlemen and the other cloven-hooved species to really try to get a fully funded FMD vaccine bank.
Currently, USDA spends 1.9 million on a vaccine back, and that bank wouldn’t vaccinate the pigs in Sampson County, North Carolina.
And, so what we want is $150 million a year to get a minimum of 10 million doses of each of 23 different strains of foot and mouth vaccine. Plus, we want a manufacturer to guarantee surge capacity so if we got an outbreak they’d dedicate a manufacturing line to make vaccine just for the United States.
Then, we’re also supporting $30 million a year for mandatory funding for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, so that places like Rollins Laboratory that are going to be essential for doing testing, to show not only where positive animals are, but also where negative animals are so they can move, that they can go to market.”
We have never had an incidence of foot and mouth disease in this country. What do you think the chances are that we could?
“It’s going up. 1929 was the last time we had it, and it was a very different farm-scape back then. Animals were in small herds, they didn’t move, it was easy to stamp out, they could de-populate some farms and it wouldn’t move. Now, we have larger farms, we’re moving animals across the country, and we have a lot of people moving globally into countries that are foot-and-mouth disease positive, they may be bringing back food that slips through the customs and border patrol, and they don’t know what the issues could be. We also have to worry about bio-terrorism. The estimates is that if we got a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak we would have in 10 years $200 billion in losses just in sales to pork, beef, poultry, and corn and soybeans, so it would be a huge economic target for a terrorist.”
If people don’t really have an idea of what this can do, I think all they have to do is look to the UK in 2001. I happened to have been there and it was devastating.
“Absolutely. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid. The United Kingdom decided that they were going to stamp out the outbreak, and lot of animals were destroyed. Every night on the news you saw funeral pyres of animals, a lot of those animals weren’t infected. They were animals in farms that were in control zones. So, our goal is to be able to vaccinate those animals in control zones, you don’t have to kill healthy animals. You don’t have to worry about the environmental impact of disposing of those carcasses. And you don’t have to waste the protein that those animals represent. And you’re not causing the emotional distress for both the farmer and customer.”
Anything we need to add here, Liz?
“I think we do need to add that this isn’t just a pig issue. So, we’re in lock-step with the cattlemen, the dairy producers are in support of this, and we’ve got the larger farm yard organizations that are supportive.”
NPPC’s Dr. Liz Wagstrom and Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison from Washington, D.C.