African Swine Fever has been largely in the forefront these past months, and rightly so. It is a very real threat that we are dealing with. However, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) joined with the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) and Iowa State University to renew the call for USDA to quickly set up a vaccine bank for Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD). The 2018 Farm Bill established funds to begin setting up an FMD vaccine bank, and some steps have been made. There is still some distance to go.
Iowa State University’s Dr. Jim Roth says FMD is the most important animal disease in the world. A naïve population is at great risk. This means populations that are not vaccinated, like in the United States.
It has been 90 years since we last had an outbreak of the disease in the United States. Dr. Roth says it was dealt with by using “stop-movement and stamping-out” methods. The reactions were effective then, but times have changed.
Stamping out is a very effective tool for dealing with the disease, however culling larger herds cannot guarantee there will not be a spread of the virus before this task is completed.
While stop movement techniques worked 90-plus years ago, the movement of livestock around the country is much more extensive than it was in 1929.
Dr. Jim Roth says the most effective weapon and simple weapon we have is vaccination.
The economic impacts of an FMD outbreak would be staggering according to Dr. Roth. First, you must understand that it could take up to 10 years to fully eradicate the disease and its effects. This means huge losses for beef and pork alone. You also must factor in the damage to corn and soybean markets by loss of domestic demand. We are talking about economic impacts amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars.
The need for a vaccine bank is very real. It is as real as the potential damage which could be done to our agricultural economy and food chain.