Keeping Iowa’s hogs safe

USDA is taking aggressive action to contain African swine fever

Hogs raised in Iowa account for more than 30 percent of U.S. hog production. Iowa ranks as the nation’s top hog-producing state. It’s also the top state for pork exports. Those sales abroad are estimated to exceed $1 billion annually.

The pork industry is vitally important to Iowa’s continued prosperity. Hog farming contributes $7.5 billion to our state’s economy each year. An outbreak of serious disease could be a catastrophic development. That’s why it is very good news that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has increased its efforts to keep African swine fever, usually referred to as ASF, from reaching the American heartland.

ASF is a contagious and deadly viral disease. According to the USDA, it is transmitted by contact with the body fluids of infected animals. This dangerous ailment has already spread internationally, having reached China in 2018.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship was recently the host of a two-day USDA exercise that largely focused on African swine fever. The actions federal and state officials are taking to keep this disease away from the United States were outlined. The response plan if the disease reaches Iowa was also addressed.

“The effects of a foreign animal disease outbreak here in Iowa would be devastating for our producers,” Mike Naig, Iowa’s secretary of agriculture, said in a statement released by his office March 7.

Naig praised the preventive efforts already being taken by the USDA. According to information provided by IDALS and the USDA, those measures, which are being taken in coordination with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, include:

• Training and adding beagle teams to reach a total of 179 at key U.S. commercial ports;

• Expanding arrival screenings at key U.S. commercial ports;

• Increasing inspections and enforcement of garbage feeding facilities to ensure fed garbage is cooked properly to prevent potential disease spread;

• Heightening producer awareness and encouraging self-evaluations of on-farm biosecurity procedures;

• Developing testing procedures to screen for the virus in grains, feeds and additives, and swine oral fluid samples;

• Working closely with Canada and Mexico on a North American-coordinated approach to ASF defense and response; and

• Coordinating with the U.S. pork industry leaders to unify efforts to combat ASF introduction.

“We understand the grave concerns about the ASF situation overseas,” Greg Ibach, USDA’s undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, said in a statement released by the department on March 6. “We are committed to working with the swine industry, our producers, other government agencies and neighboring countries.”

The Messenger applauds the prompt action by the USDA and IDALS to keep this threat from wreaking havoc on hog producers. We hope these efforts will have the desired effect. We urge prompt adherence to whatever additional prevention and response recommendations the USDA may issue.

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