US pork producers welcome ASF response plan

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Fahroni
© GettyImages/Fahroni

Related tags ASF swine diseases Usda

The US Department of Agriculture is outlining plans to address African Swine Fever if the disease enters the US, including establishing which agency has control in the situation, when swine may be moved and how producers would be reimbursed for virus elimination.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) shared the details​ of steps to be taken if African Swine Fever (ASF) is found in the US on Friday [March 6] during the National Pork Industry Forum.

Swine producers are “grateful”​ to Sonny Perdue, US secretary of agriculture, for recognizing the concerns that US swine producers have, said David Herring, president of the National Pork Producers Council.

“We remain committed to working with the USDA and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to keep ASF out of the US,”​ he added.

Despite releasing additional measures intended to “control and eradicate”​ ASF once it has been detected in the US, the USDA remains “committed to doing all it can to prevent ASF from entering the US,”​ said Greg Ibach, US undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.

Initially, if the disease were discovered in the US, an “extraordinary emergency”​ would be declared, according to the USDA. That step would establish the department as the head of a coordinated national approach focused on the control and eradication of the disease.

It also would provide funding and resources to respond to the disease, the department said.

“We greatly appreciate the pork industry’s vigilance and partnership in this successful effort thus far,” ​said Ibach. The new measures are intended to “strengthen our ability to quickly and effectively respond to the disease if detected here at home.”

Plan details

Following the discovery of the disease, and the announcement of the emergency, the USDA would halt the movement of swine nationally for at least 72 hours, the department said. The stoppage is intended to help the USDA manage the spread of the disease and allow for restored regional movement in a faster manner.

The department is set to work with states and the swine industry to use the most “efficient and effective”​ methods to depopulate infected animals or those exposed to the disease, the department reported. Methods used would be approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association based on the facilities involved.

The USDA will also work with states and industry to check producers have herd plans in place to manage carcass disposal as a way to prevent the virus from leaving sites that have been infected, the department said. Plans need to be in accordance with local and regional requirements but composting and burial in place are preferred methods.

In addition to managing the culling and disposal of infected or exposed animals, the USDA plans to compensate producers for virus elimination using a uniform, flat rate, the department said. The rate will be established based on the size of the facility.

“ASF is epidemiologically similar to foot-and-mouth disease and USDA’s system of overlapping safeguards and prevention efforts have been successful against that disease for over 90 years now,” ​said Ibach. “We remain confident those efforts will provide the same protections against ASF.

USDA researchers also continue to work on developing “vaccine candidates” that are showing promise in controlling the disease, the department said. It remains focused on preventing the disease from entering the country.

Mapping ASF’s spread

Following news of cases of ASF in China and Western Europe in 2018, the disease has continued to spread into surrounding regions, according to information​ from the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC).

The disease continues to spread in a southwesterly direction, the agency said. Most of the expansion has been into contiguous areas, except for isolated sites in the Czech Republic, western Poland and Belgium.

The first case of ASF in Greece was reported in February, 187 cases of ASF have been reported in Bulgaria in wild pigs from November through January and a new outbreak on a commercial farm in Bulgaria was also noted, the agency said. In February, Myanmar confirmed a new outbreak of the disease in Shan State.

The first outbreaks on the southern Mindanao Island in the Philippines were also reported in February – the country had previously experienced outbreaks in other regions, the agency said. South Korea reported new cases of the disease among wild boars.

There tends to be a seasonal pattern to the ASF spread, with increased notifications of presence in wild boar in winter and summer, the agency said. In domestic pigs, a summer peak has been identified.

In affected countries, including Belgium, Czech Republic and western Poland, there is evidence that suggests “human-mediated”​ movement of the virus, SHIC reported.   

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