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In the event of an outbreak, animal health officials would decide when, where and how to use the available vaccine, based on the circumstances of the outbreak.

The process to build a vaccine bank to combat Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) began last week as USDA announced its initial purchase of vaccine for the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank (NAVVCB).

The establishment of the vaccine bank was part of the 2018 Farm bill, which allocated $150 million in mandatory funding. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will invest $27.1 million in the vaccine as they took the first steps in the program.

“While we are confident we can keep foot-and-mouth disease out of the country, as we have since 1929, having access to vaccine is an important insurance policy,” said Greg Ibach, USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.

“Vaccines could be an important tool in the event of an incursion of the disease in the U.S, but their use will depend on the circumstances of the incursion and require careful coordination with the affected animal industries.”

The livestock industry has long called for a sufficient supply of vaccine. According to APHIS, a vaccine would slow the spread of the disease by reducing the amount of virus shed by animals and by controlling clinical signs of illness. While an outbreak would temporarily disrupt trade and animal movement, vaccination would allow animals to move through domestic production channels.

Foot-and-mouth disease is not a threat to public health or food safety.  It is also not related to hand, foot, and mouth disease, which is a common childhood illness caused by a different virus.

In the event of an outbreak, animal health officials would decide when, where and how to use the available vaccine, based on the circumstances of the outbreak.

The announcement was lauded by livestock industry leaders.

“(This) announcement is momentous, representing years of NPPC advocacy to ensure U.S. agriculture is protected should we have an FMD outbreak,” said NPPC President Howard “AV” Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin, in a news release.

“While U.S. pork producers and other farmers face significant challenges and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a solution to FMD preparedness is in our grasp. We thank USDA and especially Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach for proceeding with such an important effort, and look forward to continuing to work with the agency to ensure the FMD vaccine bank is adequately stocked.”

According to Iowa State University research, an FMD outbreak would result in $128 billion in losses for the beef and pork sectors, $44 billion and $25 billion, respectively, to the corn and soybean farmers, and job losses of more than 1.5 million across U.S. agriculture over 10 years.

Cattle industry leaders also welcomed the announcement.

“We are pleased to see USDA is moving forward with creating a supply of FMD vaccines in the NAVVCB to ensure ranchers and farmers have timely access to a critical tool in the fight against foreign animal diseases, such as FMD,” said NCBA executive director of government affairs Allison Rivera.

“This is a promising first step forward to begin the work authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill, but more action is needed to strengthen this newly created vaccine bank. NCBA will continue to work with USDA, Congress, and other stakeholders to secure future funding, making certain that the entire cattle industry is better prepared for a possible outbreak of FMD.”

In their statement, NCBA said in the event of an outbreak, animal health officials would decide when, where, and how to use the available vaccine based on the circumstances of the outbreak.

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.