USDA doubles down on efforts to prevent, detect and respond to animal disease outbreaks

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/MicroStockHub
© GettyImages/MicroStockHub

Related tags Usda Afia Avian influenza African swine fever biosecurity

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is awarding $15.8m to 60 projects led by 38 states, land-grant universities, and industry organizations to enhance the ability of the US to rapidly respond to and control outbreaks of animal disease.

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is awarding this funding through the 2018 Farm Bill’s National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP).

This year, NADPRP funding supports projects focused on enhancing prevention, preparedness, detection, and response activities for the most damaging diseases that threaten US livestock.

Projects will help states develop and practice plans to quickly control disease outbreaks, train responders and producers to perform critical activities for outbreak response, increase producer use of effective and practical biosecurity measures, educate livestock owners on preventing disease and what happens in an outbreak, and support animal movement decisions in animal disease outbreaks, among others.

Some of the projects funded this year include the following:

  • National Incident Command System capacity advancement, Michigan Department of Agriculture on behalf of the Multi-State Partnership for Security in Agriculture
  • On-demand training for diagnosticians of foreign animal disease for animal disease response, Texas A&M AgriLife Research
  • Targeted learning modules for the poultry industry on highly pathogenic avian influenza, University of Minnesota
  • Extending a between-farm model of transmission of African swine fever to estimate the necessary number of sample collectors in a highly swine-dense region, North Carolina State University
  • A biosecurity rapid-response mobile decontamination and disinfection gate for animal disease outbreaks, Maryland Department of Agriculture
  • Preparedness for emergency response to foreign animal diseases and mass livestock mortalities, North Dakota State University

Exports protected in event of disease outbreak

Meanwhile, last week saw APHIS move to protect the US feed sector’s ability to export products in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak.

The agency announced it had revised Veterinary Services (VS) form 16-4 in response to concerns that all animal feed manufacturers would be barred from exporting animal-based products amid a foreign animal disease outbreak in the US, under the previous language of the 16-4 health certificate.

“The VS 16-4 form has been one of those issues that keeps me up at night,” said Constance Cullman, CEO of the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA). “Our ability to export animal-based products is a top priority for the AFIA and we very much appreciate APHIS for taking our call to action seriously.”

Under the previous form, the language certifies that “rinderpest, foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever, swine vesicular disease, African swine fever, and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia do not exist in the United States of America.”

As almost all animal-based feed products, pet food and treats are exported using the VS 16-4, should one of the listed foreign animal diseases occur, the disease statement on the certificate would invalidate the entire form, explained the AFIA, as the country could no longer claim the disease “does not exist in the US.”

With the statement moved to the additional declarations section, APHIS will be able to strike the specific disease from the form in real time without having to go through the arduous Office of Management and Budget review process for changing a government form. 

The change comes after the AFIA, its members and partners applied pressure on APHIS and Capitol Hill to amend the form and support animal-based products’ ability to export.

“Without the update, chaos would have ensued in the animal food marketplace,” said Cullman. “For example, there should be no reason for a poultry-based product to not be able to be exported if the US has a swine based foreign animal disease, but that is what would have happened if APHIS did not make this change.”

The trade group said more work needs to be done in this respect, however. Next steps include working with APHIS to only list the disease(s) that are relevant to a particular commodity, listing contagious bovine pleuropneumonia on the bovine products 16-4 form and not on the swine or poultry products form, for example.

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