Last week U.S. Representatives Cindy Axne (D-IA-03) and James Baird (R-IN-04) urged U.S. Customs and Border Protection to prioritize agricultural inspections to prevent an outbreak of African swine fever among domestic swine herds. In a letter sent to Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan, the Representatives called attention to the rapid spread of ASF in Europe and Asia and highlighted the threat the disease poses to American hogs and our pork industry.
“Iowa leads the nation in pork production, raising nearly one-third of U.S. hogs. An ASF outbreak here at home would be devastating to Iowa’s pork industry, which is an economic driver and job creator across the state,” says Congresswoman Axne. “Our producers have taken steps to minimize risk wherever possible, but we need to ensure CBP bolsters measures to prevent the introduction of this infectious disease in the U.S.”
“Hoosier pork production ranks fifth in the nation with nearly 3,000 hog farms supporting 14,000 jobs,” says Congressman Baird. “An outbreak of African swine fever would be devastating to our communities and to thousands of workers who depend on hog farming as a way of life. CBP must do all it can to support our producers and prioritize the prevention of contagious diseases.”
While harmless to humans, ASF is a highly contagious and deadly viral disease with no vaccine that affects hogs. Recent reports highlight that as many as half of China’s breeding pigs have died or been slaughtered due to ASF. Ongoing outbreaks of ASF have also been reported in Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Cambodia, North Korea, Laos, Vietnam and South Africa.
“An outbreak of African swine fever in the United States, a development that would immediately close U.S. pork export markets, would be catastrophic for the nation’s swine herd, hog farmers and their families, and the rural economy,” says Dale Reicks, a pork producer from Lawler, Iowa, and member of the National Pork Producers Council’s board of directors. “With no vaccine to contain and eradicate the disease – not to mention the long and costly recovery period that would follow an outbreak – prevention is our only defense and it begins with biosecurity at our borders. We appreciate all that U.S. Customs and Border Protection has done to respond to heightened ASF risk and urge them to continue bolstering agricultural inspections at our sea, land and airports.”
“If a case occurred in the U.S., pig producers would not only lose a portion of their herd from the disease and culling, but they’d immediately lose their export markets, which account for 25% of sales for U.S pork producers,” says Iowa Pork Producers Association president Trent Thiele. “This would also lead to billions in revenue loss for other commodities. Inexpensive domestic pork would flood the U.S. meat market since pork will continue to be safe for human consumption. But a 2011 economic impact study at Iowa State University shows an $8 billion loss in the pork market would expand to a loss in beef markets of $3 billion as beef prices would need to decline in order to compete with pork. With fewer pigs in the market to consume corn and soybeans, those prices drop, too, by $4 billion and $1.5 billion, respectively.”