Paul Sundberg, National Pork Board vice president of science and technology, was announced as the director of the newly formed Swine Health Information Center during a National Pork Producers Council press conference kicking off the first day of the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa.
SHIC is a five-year, $15-million project that was approved in late 2014, and is a joint effort of the NPB, NPPC and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.
Though Sundberg will be leaving his duties at NPB, he is confident that the work in the organization’s science and technology area is in good hands, and he realizes that he will still be working for all pork producers in his new endeavor.
“We will be doing things at the center that NPB and NPPC or AASV is not doing or doesn’t have the capacity to do right now. If this (the center) does its job correctly, this will be the fourth leg of the stool,” he says. “We talk of the three-legged stool of NPB, NPPC and AASV, and this center will be that fourth leg.”
The SHIC is driven with the mission to work toward recognizing and filling the resource and knowledge gaps that exist in swine disease diagnostics as they relate to emerging diseases. The emergence of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, and the vulnerability of the pork industry to such production type diseases, were a solidifying factor in the center’s development, he says.
“If we can demonstrate success and a return on that investment at the end of the five years, my expectation is that we’ll show so much return on that investment that the pork producers will see the value in continuing that investment,” Sundberg says.
He clarifies that SHIC is not a response plan, “but it will provide a tool that producers, veterinarians, and even the USDA can use when the next disease hits.” Asked what that disease may be, Sundberg declined predictions, but says there are some “diseases that are worrying people, and there are still things circulating in China and Asia.”
Sundberg sees SHIC as a three-part mission.
- Global intelligence network to get info about those diseases circulated
- Prioritize the risks and doing the research to have the diagnostics to help us to be better prepared, or at least have the diagnostics available types of reagents
- Help producers to gain the confidence to share their disease information when they get a disease to have disease network for better response next time.
Though SHIC is swine-specific, Sundberg says his colleagues in the other species have noticed the progressive nature of the swine industry. “They can’t believe what we are doing, because it’s such a good idea,” he says. In the wake of Avian influenza, Sundberg says the poultry industry has reached out the pork producers for biosecurity efforts and materials that the NPB have created. “They have adapted what we have for their chickens and turkeys. Avian influenza doesn’t help pork. We are all in animal industry. … if they need help, if they can use it, more power to you.”
The finer details of where Sundberg will be located remain to be seen, but it has been decided that he will not be officed in the NPB or NPPC offices, but an office in the AASV location is a possibility. “Initially there was going to be a virtual office, but as things moved, the board determined the importance to have a physical location.”
World Pork Expo runs through June 5 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.