OPINION  Representatives of the National Pork Producers Council, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Corn Growers Association and Iowa State University recently called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to move as quickly as possible to establish a foot-and-mouth-disease vaccine bank.

The groups recognized the steps USDA has taken to establish the bank but called for expedient use of mandatory funding included in the 2018 farm bill to purchase the volume of vaccines required to effectively contain and eradicate a foot-and-mouth-disease outbreak. Currently the USDA, which has prescribed vaccination for dealing with an foot-and-mouth-disease outbreak, doesn’t have access to enough vaccine to avoid devastating economic consequences to the U.S. economy should an outbreak occur.

Foot-and-mouth disease is an infectious viral disease that affects cloven-hooved animals including cattle, pigs and sheep; it’s not a food-safety or human-health threat. The disease is endemic in many parts of the world. It would have widespread long-term fallout for livestock and crop agriculture, including the immediate loss of export markets. According to Iowa State University research, an outbreak would result in $128 billion in losses for the beef and pork sectors, $44 billion to corn farmers and $25 billion to soybean farmers. It would lead to job losses of more than 1.5 million across U.S. agriculture during 10 years.

“If the United States had a large outbreak of (foot-and-mouth disease) it may be impossible to control without the rapid availability of adequate supplies of vaccine,” said Dr. James Roth, veterinarian and a professor in the department of Veterinary Microbiology and Preventative Medicine at Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine. “The U.S. vaccine bank is our best insurance policy to respond to an (foot-and-mouth-disease) outbreak in the United States. As with most insurance policies we hope to never use it, but it's paramount that we have fast access to enough vaccine if we ever need it. The funding provided in the 2018 farm bill provides a good start toward building up a more robust (foot-and-mouth-disease) vaccine stockpile to help protect American agriculture.”

Dr. Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian with the National Pork Producers Council, said, “U.S. pork producers and other farmers are currently faced with a wide range of challenges, including export-market uncertainties, flooding and other weather events. Unlike challenges beyond our control, a solution for (foot-and-mouth-disease) preparedness is in our grasp. We urge the USDA to move as quickly as possible to establish the bank.”

Sarah McKay, director of market development at the National Corn Growers Association, said, “Livestock is a very important customer for U.S. corn farmers and each is crucial to the success of the other. A foreign animal-disease outbreak would have an estimated $4 billion a year impact on corn farmers, which would be disastrous on top of current market conditions. In addition an outbreak may also impact exports of animal ag products. On average pork exports contribute 28 cents a bushel to the price of corn, so the control of infectious diseases via a vaccine bank is important not only to livestock producers but corn growers as well.”

Jamie Jonker, vice-president for Sustainability and Scientific Affairs at the National Milk Producers Federation, said, “The time to build a best-in-class (foot-and-mouth disease) vaccine bank is now. (The National Milk Producers Federation) has been active in informing our members and the dairy community of the importance of preparation; a vaccine bank is a crucial element of protection for the entire livestock industry. We are excited to work with other stakeholders and with the USDA to reach this goal.”