The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is making progress to implement programs funded by the 2018 farm bill. This week, APHIS awarded $10.2 million to support disease prevention and emergency response training and exercise projects as well as targeted projects to enhance laboratory diagnostic capability. The agency is also moving forward with developing the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank.
"USDA has always worked best when it collaborates with states, universities and farmers and ranchers out in the field," says USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach. "Our farm bill programs allow us to continue to strengthen these vital partnerships. Working together, we can further improve our ability to protect U.S. animal health and respond to animal disease events. At the same time, we will continue to ensure we have an effective insurance policy in the extremely rare chance of an outbreak of certain high consequence foreign animal diseases, like foot-and-mouth disease."
The 2018 farm bill provided funding for these programs as part of an overall strategy to help prevent animal pests and diseases from entering the United States and reduce the spread and impact of potential disease incursions.
Following the announcement, House Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota, and House Agriculture Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee chairman Jim Costa of California issued the following statement. Both Peterson and Costa led bipartisan efforts to include mandatory, long-term funding for these programs to ensure the U.S. has tools to address disease risks including African swine fever, avian influenza, virulent Newcastle disease, and FMD.
"In the last farm bill, we fought hard to establish and fund the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program and the new National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank as well as reauthorize the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. As our committee oversees farm bill implementation, we are pleased to see USDA moving forward on all three of these programs. These important tools will help prevent and respond to animal pests and diseases, help keep animals healthy and ensure markets stay open. We look forward to seeing these programs address an even wider range of prevention and mitigation activities in future years."
The rapid accessibility of adequate supplies of FMD vaccine is not only essential for U.S. livestock production, but also to get export markets back as quickly as possible if there was an outbreak. Any country that has confirmed a case of FMD must notify the World Organization for Animal Health immediately, allowing other countries the right to stop imports.
"The pork industry exports over 25% of the pork we produce. Trade adds significant value for U.S. pork producers and is responsible for the growth of the pork industry in the United States," says Liz Wagstrom, National Pork Producers Council chief veterinarian. "Because of that, the development of a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank was our No. 1 priority as we went through last year's farm bill. We've spent a lot of time and effort talking to legislators about the importance, about the need for a more adequate supply than we currently have."
Currently the U.S. supply of an FMD vaccine is held at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York. However, if the U.S. were to have an FMD outbreak, that vaccine would need to be shipped to the current vaccine vendor in France, reconstituted, adjuvanted, bottled and shipped back, which would cause a significant delay, Wagstrom says.