Just as the government changed its approach to security after the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, livestock producers and organizations are changing their approach after the discovery of African swine fever (ASF) in China.
There is no vaccine for ASF, experts say, so the best approach is prevention. In that light, this year’s World Pork Expo in Des Moines was canceled and policies were changed at a number of other events.
“We want to keep this (disease) from spreading,” says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.
The good news is the pork industry is approaching this situation as a wake-up call, according to Jim Monroe, assistant vice president for communications at the National Pork Producers Council.
“We think the risk was negligible, but we decided to use extreme caution (regarding the canceling of the 2019 expo),” Monroe said. “We expect to resume hosting the show in 2020.”
Doug Fricke, director of trade show marketing for the Iowa Pork Congress and the World Pork Expo, said the dates for the 2020 World Pork Expo are expected to stick to the normal schedule, which would put it on June 3-5. The Iowa Pork Congress will likely include plenty of discussions about biosecurity and ASF.
Many livestock shows may be taking a second look at their biosecurity policies, Fricke said. One example is the Iowa State Fair, which changed some of its biosecurity policies this past summer. For example, fair officials required all swine at the fair be individually inspected and identified on a certificate of veterinary inspection completed within seven days of the fair. It also required a veterinarian inspect the hogs upon arrival at the fairgrounds before they were unloaded or mixed with other livestock on-site.
Government officials are also taking a fresh look at things. Last week, Naig’s department joined officials from 13 other hog-producing states in a four-day exercise about how they might handle an outbreak.
“We’re trying to identify any gaps,” Naig said of the exercise. “We all have lots of plans and plans are good, but planning is better.”
Naig worked with Iowa lawmakers this past year to get funding to expand the state veterinarian staff to help deal with ASF and other animal diseases. And Monroe said NPPC is working with national lawmakers to implement parts of the farm bill regarding animal disease prevention.
One thing they are pushing right now is an effort to get 600 more inspectors at the border to try to spot and stop any diseased animals from entering the country.
He said he expects animal shows such as the World Pork Expo to continue in the future, but the security may be stepped up.