Pork producers in Minnesota know the threat of African swine fever and other foreign animal diseases like foot-and-mouth disease and classical swine fever. That's why the Minnesota Pork Board and the Minnesota Pork Producers Association have been working to bring farmers, industry and government officials together to develop prevention, preparedness and response plans.
The MPPA has been active at a state and federal level to advocate for prevention practices that can keep disease out of the United States, protecting the national and North American swine herds.
Prevention at the federal level is key to protecting America's food and agriculture. Our first line of defense in keeping FADs out of the United States begins at our borders. The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection inspectors and officers at U.S. ports of entry prevent the entry of materials and products that could threaten the health of U.S. agriculture and food.
Minnesota Pork, along with other pork producers across the country and the National Pork Producers Council, have advocated for increased funding that would allow BCBP to hire, train and deploy additional agricultural inspectors. Both the U.S. House and Senate passed legislation with bipartisan support to authorize the hiring for 600 additional agents. We eagerly await the president's signature and the upcoming appropriations process that needs to provide the necessary resources to fully staff BCBP.
Preventing FADs is complex and requires strong collaboration. Minnesota Pork took the first step in preparedness and prevention planning by partnering with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health to establish the Emergency Disease Management Committee for Swine in Minnesota. The committee's goal is to enhance awareness, address gaps, and develop the preparedness and response plan for swine disease emergencies in Minnesota and serve as the advisory group to the MBAH for the implementation of the response plan during an outbreak.
Minnesota Pork worked to identify key individuals who could serve as subject matter experts that included producers of all sizes, packers and processors, and swine veterinarians. These people joined state and federal regulatory agents and academicians to address gaps and needs in key functions of an incident management response including:
- Surveillance and diagnostics
- Information management including epidemiological investigations, mapping and tracing
- Health, safety and welfare of pork producers, veterinarians, disease responders and animals
- Biosecurity and quarantine
- Permitted movement control
- Mass depopulation, euthanasia and disposal
- Cleaning and disinfection
- Wildlife management and vector control
- Regionalization for interstate and/or international trade
It takes shared knowledge and communication to prepare for and manage a disease outbreak. One critical aspect of the EDMC also establishes a trusted relationship when regulatory agencies are engaged with industry prior to an emergency, which improves transparency and leads to a more-effective response.
One gap identified by pig farmers and the EDMC is the lack of proven options for disposal of pigs that would be depopulated in a disease outbreak. One project was funded by a coalition of state Pork Checkoff organizations to evaluate above-ground burial for disposal and virus deactivation and its feasibility in northern climates. Another disposal project is being coordinated by the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response.
In Minnesota, the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response works within the Department of Agriculture to serve an important role in providing coordination and support to the industry and other government agencies in the event of a disease outbreak. Their efforts, along with the EDMC, led to grant applications that funded a project to test and evaluate different disposal processes.
A Minnesota packing plant, pig farm and the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response submitted a grant through the 2018 farm bill to exercise a depopulation and disposal scenario in the cold winter months. The demonstration will evaluate whether grinding and composting carcasses in the winter is a feasible way to dispose of animals, while protecting the environment and deactivating the virus. The knowledge gained in this trial will continue to refine response plans.
FAD prevention and preparedness are worthwhile endeavors for pork organizations and government agencies that work with and serve farmers. Minnesota Pork will continue to bring together stakeholders and lead in the area of FAD prevention and response planning.