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African swine fever remains a threat

Pandemic has not pulled U.S. pork industry members from their priority in protecting the health of the U.S. swine herd.

During the recent Carthage Veterinary Service Virtual Swine Health and Production Conference, CVS veterinarian and partner Attila Farkas shared this cartoon during his African swine fever update on Romania:

Carthage Veterinary Servicenhf-cvs-asf-cartoon.jpg

Joking aside, this comic became a reality last week for Germany as they identified their first case of ASF in the corpse of a wild boar in the eastern state of Brandenburg, near the Polish border. Now China, Japan and South Korea have suspended imports of pork and live pigs from Europe's largest hog-producing nation.

While this virus may still seem a million miles away from U.S. swine herds, it is good to see that U.S. pork industry members have not let their guards down, even during a pandemic.

For example, the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory has been in the thick of COVID-19 testing to help the state expedite tests, but Rodger Main, director of operations, says the VDL is ready to roll out the next stage of the U.S. Swine Health Improvement Plan. The ASF/classical swine fever monitored certification pilot project will kick off this fall and model the National Poultry Improvement Plan's H5/H7 Avian Influenza Monitored Certification of U.S. commercial poultry operations. The purpose of the pilot project is enhanced preparedness in prevention, response and recovery; to reduce the impact of recurrent endemic diseases of high consequence through the advancement of sanitary standards that mitigate a disease spread between farms; and finally to provide the U.S. pork industry firsthand experience in developing and implementing an NPIP-like program, such as the U.S. Swine Health Improvement Plan.

The National Pork Producers Council is also remaining vigilant against ASF. During the organization's virtual Legislative Action Conference this week, NPPC will be advocating for a COVID-19 assistance package but will also be addressing the funding of foreign animal disease prevention programs.

U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspections at U.S. ports of entry are funded by Agricultural Quarantine Inspection program user fees. Due to the COVID-related economic downturn and significant reductions in travel, collection of these user fees has dropped precipitously.

According to Howard "AV" Roth, president of NPPC, "without a prompt resolution, there will be an estimated $630 million shortfall in AQI funding through the end of fiscal year 2021." NPPC is urging Congress to fully fund foreign animal disease prevention programs.

Just as Germany detected ASF in a wild boar, the U.S. swine industry is also not turning a blind eye to the invasive animals. The Swine Health Information Center, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, the National Pork Board and NPPC continue to monitor the National Feral Swine Damage Management Program. Created in 2014 with the mission of managing feral swine disease damage, the NFSP tests around 3,000 samples from feral swine each year for antibodies against CSF, swine brucellosis and pseudorabies. NFSP's 2020 priorities include a FAD surveillance system, that specifically focuses on CSF (serologic) and ASF (morbidity and mortality) as well as foot-and-mouth disease (syndromic). Another priority is building the framework to be nimble enough to respond to emerging threats.

These are just three areas in U.S. FAD prevention, preparedness and response we have reported on over the last few weeks at National Hog Farmer. I hope the industry can get the appropriate funding and resources needed, that pork production systems continue to update and improve biosecurity measures and protocols, and the industry, along with the USDA, CBP and other federal agencies, can make a concerted effort to do everything in their power to keep ASF out.

I pray the U.S. swine industry does not get distracted and I pray that we do not end up the butt of a joke one day.

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