Citing risk of African swine fever, national pork producers cancels World Expo
The National Pork Producers Council said Wednesday it is cancelling the 2019 World Pork Expo as a precautionary step to avoid the spread of African swine fever into the United States.
ASF continues to spread in China and other parts of Asia.
“We are a producer-led organization. The decision was made by our board of directors, which is principally made up of U.S. pork producers,” Jim Monroe, NPPC’s senior communications director, said.
“They made the decision out of an extreme abundance of caution. The U.S. swine herd and livelihood of our producers is NPPC’s top concerns.”
The World Pork Expo was going to be held June 5-7 on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.
Although the NPPC said it feels the risk of ASF entering the United States through the World Pork Expo is negligible, it said that even a low risk is a risk not worth taking.
“Because our No. 1 concern is swine health and our farmers, the board decided to make the decision because we can’t say the risk is zero. And because we can’t, we decided to be conservative and make this call,” he said.
The annual World Pork Expo is the largest pork industry-specific trade show in the world. It brings together pork producers and other industry professionals.
“We have 20,000 people over three days gathering at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines for the World Pork Expo and many of those folks are international visitors and some would be coming from regions of the world where African swine fever is present,” Monroe said.
Gregg Hora, a Webster County pork producer from Fort Dodge and past president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, said there is some benefit to cancelling the event.
“Yes, it is disappointing that we cannot host the nearly 1,000 international visitors that would come to Des Moines, However, the awareness programs with other countries and the biosecurity improvements of other countries will be made known by this cancelling of the World Pork Expo,” he said.
Although the hundreds of vendors rely on shows like the World Pork Expo for their businesses, Hora said missing out on one year of the World Pork Expo is better than the potential alternative.
“Vendors that come into the World Pork Expo are going to be extremely disappointed. However, if we had African swine fever on the shores of the United States, we would lose 25 percent of our market overnight because the borders would be shut down. It would have a tremendous negative affect on, not just pig farmers, but on so many other sectors of the U.S. economy.”
ASF is a swine-only disease, Monroe emphasized. It brings no food safety or human health risk.
“But, it’s a very bad viral disease with pigs with high mortality,” he said. “It spreads through close contact with infected animals or through their excretions. It can also spread through feeding uncooked, contaminated meat to susceptible pigs. People that have been exposed to infected pigs — or carrying meat products illegally across borders — these are things that can happen. There are a lot of biosecurity protocols to prevent these things from happening, and that’s why we think the risk would be very, very low. But, again, because it’s not zero, we decided to just be cautious and cancel this year’s event.”
Trent Blair, a Rockwell City-area pork producer in Calhoun County, is pleased with the NPPC’s decision to cancel the Expo.
“It’s a good day for Iowa pork producers,” he said. “This is one way to hopefully keep African swine fever out of the United States.”
Leading up to the announcement, Blair said he had been talking with his suppliers and others to help voice his opinion on the threat having the World Pork Expo could bring to the U.S. pork industry.
“Four years ago, I watched PED (porcine epidemic diarrhea virus) come across the state of Iowa. I knew it was going to show up on my farm. I just didn’t know what day. We don’t need African swine fever showing up. It would be a disaster.”
Despite the cancellation of the 2019 World Pork Expo, the National Swine Registry, Certified Pedigreed Swine and the American Berkshire Association are still planning on holding the live swine show during the week of June 2-8.
Cassie Godwin, social media coordinator for the NSR, said not only are they supportive of the NPPC’s decision to cancel the World Pork Expo, but that the NPPC, in turn, is supportive of them continuing to hold the show.
“First and foremost, it is a priority to ensure the health and safety of the U.S. swine industry. We decided to continue on having the live hog show just because the World Pork Expo is a huge event for the NSR and the NSJA (National Swine Juniors Association) members,” she said. “Even though the World Pork Expo was cancelled, we still wanted to provide an avenue and a show for our open show and junior show members to exhibit and promote purebred swine genetics.”
Godwin said the live hog show will not pose a threat of the spread of ASF.
“Just to clarify, the live hog show that the National Swine Register, American Berkshire Association and Certified Pedigreed Swine will be hosting, will only be U.S. swine as genetics and will only be pigs grown in the U.S.,” she said. “There will be no foreign livestock or exhibitors exhibiting at the show we are hosting. However, we will be implementing even more precautionary biosecurity measures as an extra precaution.”
The 2018 World Pork Expo featured 1,420 Junior Show exhibitors.
Hora said he is pleased to know the live hog show will be held.
“It is beneficial to the industry that we have a live show,” he said. “Not only the first week of June at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, but that we continue to have live animal shows with 4-H and FFA students, not only in Iowa, but across the country.”
The decision to cancel the 2019 World Pork Expo came during the NPPC’s Legislative Action Conference being held in Washington D.C. this week.
“We actually have 100 pork producers in Washington, D.C., right now for our twice-annual Legislative Action Conference,” Monroe said. “They’re here to meet with their members of Congress to talk about important U.S. pork issues.”
Monroe said ASF and the importance of keeping it out of the United States is on the forefront of the talks, along with trade.
“One of the many reasons to keep it out, if we had an outbreak, it would immediately close our export markets,” he said. “U.S. pork is highly export-dependent. We are already facing trade headwinds with trade disputes going on right now.”
Both of those issues are connected.
“An outbreak of a disease like African swine fever would be devastating and what we really need to happen right now is for the U.S., for the Trump administration, to end trade disputes so we can not only be defending existing export opportunities, but actually be expanding our export opportunities through new trade agreements.”