Authorization of a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank is the top farm bill issue for America’s pig farmers. And National Pork Producers Council president and Illinois pork producer Ken Maschhoff took to the microphone to convey that message at farm bill listening sessions hosted by House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11), ranking member Collin Peterson (MN-7) and members of the House Agriculture Committee.
Farmers and ranchers flocked to Decatur, Ill., for the 2017 Farm Progress Show to kick the tires on new machinery and learn about the latest technology. So, it was the perfect location for a “Conversations in the Field” farm bill listening session with the House Agriculture Committee members.
“Producers from across the country gather at the Farm Progress Show every year for the latest in ag innovation and services. So there is no better place to gather insight and feedback about the challenges in farm country and how we can improve ag policy in the next farm bill than right here in Decatur,” says Conaway.
The listening session is a continuation of the Agriculture Committee’s effort to hear straight from various groups directly impacted by the farm bill, and pork producers did not waste the opportunity to explain the importance to the United States of being prepared for an FMD outbreak.
Generally, U.S. hog farmers do not request much in the farm bill, but an outbreak of the foreign animal disease would cripple the entire agricultural sector, immediately shutting U.S. export markets, and have long-lasting ramifications to the economic viability of U.S. livestock production.
“As a pork producer, the time my wife and I have spent in Washington, D.C., in the last 20 years, the pork producers have never gone to D.C. with their hands out. We never ask for any funding. Every time the farm bill comes up, we simply ask to be left alone,” states Maschhoff.
Iowa State University estimates an FMD outbreak would cost the United States over $200 billion across the entire agriculture sector, not just the pork industry.
“Our concern with increased global travel and trade is that eventually we could be facing this disease. We just want to be prepared for that,” Maschhoff explains.
Currently, the United States only has access to enough vaccine to deal with a small, localized FMD outbreak.
“NPPC is asking for authorization to allow APHIS to move forward on establishing a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank that would be adequate to protect the pork and beef sectors,” stresses Maschhoff during the listening session.
The NPPC and fellow livestock organizations are urging APHIS to:
- Contract for an offshore FMD vaccine bank that would provide vaccine antigen concentrate for all FMD strains currently circulating in the world;
- Contract for production capacity that would produce the 10 million vaccine doses needed for the early stages of an outbreak;
- Contract for the surge capacity to produce an additional 40 million doses.
In addition to the authorization, the FMD vaccine bank requires funding of $150 million annually over the five years of the 2018 farm bill. Pork producers realize it is a large dollar amount to ask for during a tight budget cycle, however, the funding does not compare to the pricey impact to the U.S. economy of an actual outbreak.
“We are asking the government for the cost that might be incurred to have the program. There will be a cost for producers,” notes Maschhoff. “One thing that is not in these numbers is the fact the government would be able to sell the vaccine to other countries around the world should we not need it. It would offset some of the cost.”