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Axne-led ASF protection bill heads to President’s desk

On Monday, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation introduced by Iowa 3rd District Democrat Representative Cindy Axne to protect Iowa’s pork industry and the national pork supply from a foreign animal disease (FAD) outbreak.

Audio: Profit Matters 2-11-20

Representative Axne’s bill, the “Protecting American’s Food and Agriculture Act” authorizes United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to bring another 240 new agriculture specialists to prevent diseases such as African Swine Fever (ASF) from entering our food supply. There is no commercially available vaccine, yet. However, there have been some good results in some laboratory tests.
The bill passed the Republican-Controlled Senate by unanimous consent back in October of 2019. With the House’s passage, the bill is on its way to President Trump’s Desk. Representative Axne had this to say:

“It’s critical that we ensure there are enough resources to protect our borders from animal diseases. We’ve seen diseases such as African Swine Fever destroy hog populations throughout the world. An outbreak in Iowa, which leads the nation in producing nearly one-third of all U.S. hogs, would be devastating to an industry that is an economic driver and job creator across our state. We must do all that we can to prevent an outbreak, and I’m proud to have helped introduce this important legislation and look forward to seeing it signed into law.”

The bill’s passage was praised by the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA). President Mike Paustian is a hog producer from Walcott. He said:

“This is a positive step to help prevent foreign animal diseases, including African Swine Fever, from entering the U.S. Our Iowa congressional delegation worked together in a bipartisan way to move this bill through both the Senate and House. Pig farmers across the country tip their hats to the good work done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to mitigate our risk of foreign animal disease, but we must remain vigilant. Today’s vote represents a tremendous victory for farmers, consumers, and the American economy.”

The benefits of the legislation reach far beyond the borders of Iowa. National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) President David Herring is a North Carolina hog producer. He echoed the sentiments of IPPA President Paustian. The threats of foreign animal diseases such as ASF of even Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) are very real. Their entry would decimate livestock production in the United States.

“For more than a year, NPPC has advocated for more agricultural inspectors at our borders. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection have done much to mitigate risk to animal disease, but we must remain vigilant. Today’s vote represents a tremendous victory for our farmers, consumers and the American economy. We thank Congressional leadership, led by Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas) and Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), for their strong leadership on this issue and look forward to the bill’s implementation.”  

NPPC says the most likely way for a foreign animal disease to enter is through an illegally transported product that would be contaminated. The extra security helps deter such an event. The NPPC is also still advocating for an FMD vaccine bank as approved in the 2018 Farm Bill. The U.S. does not have enough vaccine to counter such an outbreak of FMD.

The threat of ASF led to the cancellation of the 2019 World Pork Expo in Des Moines. Since then, lessons have been learned and plans put in place to combat any disease threat, and the passage of this legislation helps accomplish more of those goals.

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