A cautious National Pork Producers Council has decided to cancel World Pork Expo 2019, due to be staged during June in Des Moines. The decision was difficult but made in fear of spreading African Swine Fever to the United States.
The board of directors took the unprecedented move in recognition that African Swine Fever continues to spread in China and other parts of Asia.
World Pork Expo, held each June at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, hosts about 20,000 visitors during three days, including individuals and exhibitors from African Swine Fever-positive regions.
“While an evaluation by veterinarians and other third-party experts concluded negligible risk associated with holding the event, we have decided to exercise extreme caution,” said David Herring, National Pork Producers Council president and a producer from Lillington, North Carolina. “The health of the United States swine herd is paramount; the livelihoods of our producers depend on it. Prevention is our only defense against (African Swine Fever) and (the National Pork Producers Council) will continue to do all it can to prevent its spread to the United States.”
The decision to cancel this year’s World Pork Expo comes as more than 100 U.S. pork producers gathered in Washington, D.C., to meet with their members of Congress during the National Pork Producers Council’s Legislative Action Conference.
To augment the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s efforts to protect the United States from African Swine Fever and other animal diseases, pork producers are asking Congress for appropriate funding for 600 new U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspectors to further strengthen defenses against African Swine Fever.
“Our farmers are highly export-dependent,” Herring said. “An (African Swine Fever) outbreak would immediately close our export markets at a time when we are already facing serious trade headwinds. The retaliatory tariffs we currently face in some of our largest export markets due to trade disputes are among the factors that prompted a conservative decision regarding World Pork Expo. U.S. pork producers are already operating in very challenging financial conditions.
“The widespread presence of African Swine Fever in China’s swine herd, the world’s largest by far, takes the threat of this swine disease to an entirely new level. We ask all producers, travelers and the general public to recognize the heightened risk since the first outbreak was reported in China last year and to heed biosecurity protocols in support of U.S. agriculture.”
The last time the World Pork Expo was canceled was in 2001 in the United Kingdom because of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak there.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said he supports the National Pork Producers Council’s decision to cancel the expo.
“We are working with USDA’s (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) and pork producers to monitor the African Swine Fever outbreak in Asia and parts of Europe,” he said. “Protecting the health of Iowa’s livestock and our ag-based economy are our top priorities. We continue to stress the importance of following proper biosecurity protocols on the farm every day to prevent the spread of disease and protect our herds.”
The National Pork Board has also supported the National Pork Producers Council in canceling the event.
Steve Rommereim, president of the National Pork Board and a pig farmer from Alcester, South Dakota, said, “We completely understand that to cancel World Pork Expo is a tough decision that no one wants to make. But when it comes to the ongoing spread of African Swine Fever in Asia and Europe, caution must come first. We stand by our pig-farming partners in doing anything we can to stem the spread of this disease.”
Imports come from disease-control zones
There is no doubt that African Swine Fever in Poland is causing the pork industry significant harm but exports of the meat to the United States keep rolling thanks to disease-control zones. Poland in 2018 exported almost 61,000 tonnes of pork meat – about 67,240 U.S. tons – to the United States, worth almost €150 million – USD$168.90 million.
African Swine Fever first entered Poland in the eastern Podlaskie province. It then spread to other areas including Lublin and Masovia, and even around the capital Warsaw. Pork meat is critical to Poland’s economy, accounting for exports of about €1.5 billion – USD$1.69 billion. Its national population consumes more than 40 kilograms of pork meat per head per year – about 88 pounds.
Poland reported 68 new cases of African Swine Fever in its domestic pig herd from July 2018 to February 2019, plus 1,692 cases in its wild-boar herd in the same period. In a bid to maintain exports the Polish government created specialist health zones within the country. They are designed to assure consumers that pork meat from a zone free of African Swine Fever is safe to eat.
The zoning program is managed by the General Veterinary Inspectorate in Poland in official efforts to contain the spread of African Swine Fever in the country. Within protection zones and surveillance zones, producers are prohibited from moving pigs from the holding. All pig owners are obligated to immediately notify the District Veterinary Officer about all cases of dead or diseased pigs in the holding.
When African Swine Fever hit Poland, the authorities – in co-operation with the European Commission – created three different zones that are each enforced by a different set of regulations, depending on the risk of African Swine Fever in that area.
Zone 1 is a buffer zone that is disease-free; Zone 2 has the disease present in the wild-boar population. Zone 3 has African Swine Fever present in both the commercial-pig population and the wild-boar population.
The Polish authorities say disease-control measures will be enforced in zones 2 and 3, otherwise known as protection zones, confirming to EU regulations. There will be trade restrictions on all zones and additional culling measures taken in other areas of Poland.
Various orders controlling the movements of pigs into and out of zones are also in force. Regulations controlling movements within and out of Zone 1 include clinical testing of pigs by official veterinarians not earlier than 24 hours before movement. Only when a health certificate is issued by an official veterinarian confirming that no pigs show symptoms indicating African Swine Fever can the pigs be moved.
Disease continues to spread
Some results of epizootic investigations have provided possible sources of African Swine Fever-virus introduction into herds, in spite of all the precautions.
non-compliance with biosecurity rules in regard to handling of pigs kept with another species such as cattle or horses; or hay or grass for feeding animals brought from places where cases of African Swine Fever in wild boars have occurred
non-compliance with biosecurity rules as due to lack of fences, lack of disinfection mats, etc.
non-compliance with biosecurity rules during human activity in an area related to contamination with African Swine Fever virus
illegal movements of pigs of unknown origin
With 16 years experience behind him, award-winning agricultural journalist Chris McCullough is always on the hunt for his next story. He grew up on the family dairy farm in the heart of Northern Ireland and is based on the country’s east coast. He travels around the world to bring readers international news.