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Iowa Pseudorabies Rules on Hot Seat

The Iowa PRV eradication program was progressing well until a series of outbreaks struck the northern two-thirds of the state earlier this year.

Iowa's tough new pseudorabies (PRV) rules will do more to remove small-to-medium-sized pork producers than it will to eradicate PRV, contends Paul Armbrecht, DVM, chairman of the Iowa PRV Advisory Committee.

The movement restrictions on PRV-negative, weaned pigs from vaccinated and stable but positive sow farms are a great burden to infected, larger farms using multi-site production systems, says producer John Korslund, DVM, also a member of the committee.

At press time, a number of informational meetings were happening around Iowa to inform producers of emergency rules that were to take effect June 1 through Aug. 15.

That's not enough time for producers to deal with a set of rules that are conflicting, confusing and unworkable, says Armbrecht, Lake City, IA.

Reworking the Rules The state's previous PRV clean-up program had the attention and cooperation of producers, he emphasizes. It may not have been progressing at a pace satisfactory to state and federal officials, but it was getting the job done.

Completion of eradication in 2000 was still within sight, says Armbrecht. Iowa was down to about 200 quarantined, infected herds.

Then a series of disease blowups struck last winter and continued into the spring, upping infection to about 540 herds in the northern two-thirds of the state.

Armbrecht's committee responded with a four-point plan, mandatory vaccination in the state's northern 66 Stage 2 (control) counties, some movement restrictions, clean-up steps and penalties for failure to comply.

The committee's suggestions were amplified in a proposal framed by the Iowa Legislature and released May 12 by the Iowa Department of Agriculture. The plan requires all infected sow herds to clean up by mid-August. This squeezes small sow herds that can't afford to depopulate and repopulate without financial assistance and will have difficulty finding an approved premise to feed out their pigs.

This uncertainty has discouraged producers such as Korslund, Eagle Grove, IA. He is calling for a re-evaluation of the state's PRV regulations.

In his case, Korslund's sow herd was well vaccinated and still became infected - for the third time - in early May. A regular herd monitoring test detected a titer for PRV; his herd has no clinical signs of the disease.

"Producers who've survived this long must have something going for them. They don't want to have to sell off now when the market is so good," he laments.

Requiring PRV-positive sow herds that are making progress on herd clean-up plans to be sold off is a form of forced depopulation that could spell the ruin of many small sow producers, including himself, Korslund says.

His nursery and finishing production is off-site. The new rules won't allow Korslund and others like him to use their own off-site premises to clean up because all progeny of infected herds are considered to be infected and therefore must be fed out in approved premises, he explains. This approach severely penalizes multi-site sow herd producers who are following a successful herd clean-up plan.

"How have we cleaned up 10,000 herds in Iowa, more than any other state, over the last 10 years?" questions Jeff Schnell of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. "It was done with progeny separation on an approved herd clean-up plan." In short, because they're coming at a time when many producers need to rebuild equity, cheating and disregard for these rules will be widespread in order to survive, Korslund warns.

Fostering Civil Disobedience Armbrecht agrees, saying the rules paint producers in a corner and will foster "civil disobedience." Producers who've survived $8 hogs aren't going to comply with unworkable rules that will put them out of business in order to clean up PRV, he stresses.

"If the law is upheld completely, there are few producers who won't be made criminals," he declares.

Armbrecht's goal is to work to soften the rules to allow movement of pigs that are on bona fide working herd clean-up plans. That probably means returning to the drawing board.

Armbrecht advises interested producers, bankers and veterinarians to attend a June 22 public hearing on the new PRV rules. It starts at 10 a.m. at the Wallace Building, Iowa Department of Agriculture in Des Moines.

PRV Eradication Funding Two recent changes were made in the use of the federal Accelerated Pseudorabies Eradication Program (APEP) funding (See: "PRV Eradication Funding Changes," National Hog Farmer, May 15, 2000, page 50).

One change pays salvage value for PRV-infected herds or animals to be slaughtered. The second uses test and removal of PRV-positive breeding animals to allow the producer to keep the rest of the herd.

The idea is to extend the use of the remaining $18 million in special PRV funding, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

"APEP was great in its day in reducing the number of infected herds and the number of pounds on the market," says IPPA's Schnell. "Unfortunately, market conditions have changed greatly since then."

Salvage value for a sow under APEP is $50, says Schnell. In today's market, her 10-pig litter is worth about $200 (10 pigs x $20 each), plus sow value.

"We thought that the increased savings from the federal program would go toward increased indemnity on an animal basis, but it didn't happen," declares Schnell.

In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, Iowa Gov. Thomas Vilsack points out that many producers believe the toughest task remains - achieving zero infected herds.

Remaining APEP funding falls far short of what's needed to clean up the PRV-infected herds in Iowa, he says. Financial needs include vaccine subsidies, increased testing allocations and increased indemnities for nursery and breeding herd owners.

"I want to emphasize that our goal in Iowa is to eradicate PRV without also eradicating pork producers," says Vilsack. Smaller producers will have few options but to exit the business without federal help and guidance.