The Minnesota Pork Producers Association has three objectives when it comes to meeting membership needs: listen first, be relevant and provide value. So, seven years ago, when the state's pork producers brought up the need for local emergency response, the association swiftly responded, placing seven emergency response trailers at fire departments throughout southern and central Minnesota and within 45 to 50 minutes from any livestock farm in those areas.
"Unfortunately, every one of those trailers has been used, and one of them to the point where it's had to have probably half of its contents replaced," says David Preisler, CEO of the MPPA.
The threat of African swine fever and how to respond to the disease if it should cross Minnesota's borders has been weighing heavily on members' minds. Thus, the reason the association has spent the past year, establishing a state-based emergency management response team. The team is made up of 55 different people who stem from feed mills, rendering plants, veterinary services, pork production systems, academia and even lending institutions. The goal is to put together an emergency response plan that can provide a roadmap for Minnesota's state veterinarian on how to respond to any foreign animal disease and funding is shared 50/50 between the MPPA and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.
Since the team started working together, Preisler says they have established a series of task forces, focusing specifically now on regionalization and depopulation and disposal.
"Those are still 'works in progress,' but I feel a whole lot better than I did 90 days ago and I hope to feel a whole lot better 90 days from now," Preisler says. "The other thing is we are really dependent, with the way our system is set up within the United States, on the relationships between animal health officials from state to state, and state veterinarians have a tremendous amount of power."
However, Preisler says with that power comes responsibility. Every day there are roughly 1 million pigs on the road in the United States. Last year Minnesota alone moved pigs to 32 other states. Some states have slaughter capacity, while others do not.
"We sit in one of those positions where we only have the physical capability to kill half the pigs that we raise," Preisler says. "We are absolutely reliant on other states — Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri — to move our slaughter pigs to, so if we break with a foreign animal disease, and there are hiccups in being able to move animals across state lines, we are going to have an animal welfare problem really quick."
Even if each state can come up with a "memorandum of understanding" with other states and practice "the golden rule" during a foreign animal disease break, Preisler says each state will need to know the status of pigs before being able to move them, and that will involve having on-farm staff trained to take samples and the diagnostic capacity to run those samples in a timely fashion.
Preisler says right now forming a regionalization plan with other states and the best methods for depopulation and disposal are the two items keeping him up at night. He's also worried about the people in the swine industry if the United States should break with an FAD.
"We need to make sure that we deal with the whole mental stress of things because it could be significant," Preisler says.