Livestock News

U.S. pork & soybean producers unite to keep ASF at bay


Thanks to continued vigilance by the USDA, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. pork industry, the United States has so far prevented an outbreak of African swine fever — an animal disease affecting only pigs with no known human health or food-safety risks. To ensure the U.S. swine herd remains free of the disease, the National Pork Producers Council and 30 state pork producer associations asked Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to take additional measures, including restricting imports of organic soy products for animal feeds from all ASF-positive countries.

The U.S. pork and feed industries have adopted holding times to allow for the natural degradation of any viruses, to ensure that most imported feed ingredients are safe to use. Research indicates, however, that organic soy products can maintain the virus for longer periods of time, making holding times impractical. While overall imports of feed ingredients are minimal, most soy products imported by the United States are organic. NPPC is confident in the safety of domestic soy products.

NPPC President David Herring, a hog farmer from Lillington, North Carolina, said, “While we are confident in the safety of domestic soy products, we urge Secretary Perdue to use authority under the Animal Health Protection Act to restrict imports of organic soy products from ASF-positive countries to further safeguard our animals and prevent an outbreak that would have devastating, far-reaching economic consequences.”

NPPC and the 30 state pork associations also asked the USDA to further explore the merit of restricting all soy products from ASF-positive countries, to enhance its online system that would be used for permitting animal movements if an outbreak occurred and to expand state animal health laboratory testing capacity. The pork industry letter to Perdue can be read here.

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved Senate legislation that authorizes funding for 720 new agricultural inspectors at land, air, and sea ports to prevent ASF and other foreign animal diseases from entering the United States. The legislation also authorizes 600 new agricultural technicians and 60 new agricultural canine teams.

The most likely path for a FAD to enter the country would be through the illegal transport of contaminated products. An outbreak of certain FADs, including ASF, would immediately close U.S. pork export markets, causing significant damage to farmers and consumers. NPPC continues to advocate for other FAD preparedness measures, including quickly establishing a U.S. Foot-and-Mouth Disease vaccine bank as provided for in the 2018 Farm Bill. The United States does not currently have access to enough vaccine to quickly contain and eradicate an FMD outbreak.

U.S. soybean farmers appreciate the pork industry’s ongoing efforts to assure animal feed products brought in from outside the U.S. do not transfer foreign animal diseases to domestic animals or contaminate domestic meal supplies, which remain safe and reliable. 

“Poultry and swine are major consumers of soybean meal, so protecting domestic farms and the U.S. animal agriculture industry is crucial,” said USB Chair Jim Carroll III, a soybean farmer from Brinkley, Arkansas. “We have closely collaborated with our pork partners to avoid and reduce threats including African swine fever.”

The U.S. Soy industry remains diligent about practices to protect the U.S. from ASF and to ensure that soybean meal is a dependable and safe source of nutrients for pigs, poultry, livestock, and aquaculture. USB efforts related to pathogens include cross-industry discussions with USB’s feed technical team and collaborative investments with the private sector to develop an ASF surrogate virus with the University of Minnesota, which will enable development of an ASFV test and a formal feed-ingredient risk assessment. 

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