Farm groups' coalition responds to activists' charges.

Voters approved a constitutional amendment a few years back to ban sow gestation stalls in Florida. The Campaign for Arizona Farmers and Ranchers is gearing up to prevent the same proposed language from appearing on the November ballot. The group is comprised of the state's cattlemen, dairymen, pork producers and Farm Bureau members.

Arizonans for Humane Farms (AHF) has collected 44,000 signatures for the sow stall ban initiative, reports Tom Miller, executive director for the Arizona Pork Council (APC). Miller says AHF, led by the Humane Society of the United States and Farm Sanctuary, needs 123,000 signatures by July 6 to be eligible for the ballot.

In the last few months, there has been a flurry of negative publicity surrounding the state's hog production, including visits by activists to the state, letters to the editor and a major feature article in the Arizona Republic newspaper in Phoenix.

Miller says APC President Mike Terrill, DVM, is drafting a letter to the editor of the newspaper challenging the implication that producers don't take good care of their sows and pigs.

Miller, a resident of Casa Grande, a suburb of Phoenix, says: “I've told my city friends that if a farmer operated the way it was portrayed in the paper, they would go broke and wouldn't survive.”

He stresses that the issue at hand goes well beyond the sow gestation stalls used by the state's half dozen remaining pork producers. “While these activist groups make it sound like they are worried about the welfare of farm animals, they are really worried about getting everyone to stop eating meat or consuming any products associated with meat.”

Miller fears if Arizona becomes the second state to adopt the sow stall ban, activists will soon get bold enough to try it in places like Illinois, Iowa and Ohio.

For updates on the farmer coalition's educational efforts to stop the ban, go to www.azfarmersranchers.com.

PMWS Gains Attention

Cases of postweaning multi-systemic wasting syndrome (PMWS) have been reported in a number of pork-producing states, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and North Carolina, says the National Pork Board.

Producers should know that:

  • PMWS is in no way related to other “wasting” diseases reported in species such as elk and deer;

  • PMWS, associated with porcine circovirus, has been reported in the United States since the 1990s, but recent cases appear to be more severe;

  • Earlier cases of PMWS occurred mainly in weaned pigs. More recently, PMWS has been reported in 4- to 8-week-old pigs after being placed in the finisher.

  • PMWS is described as a syndrome rather than as an infectious disease because it often requires more than porcine circovirus for infection. Other common co-infections include porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, swine influenza virus and Mycoplasmal pneumonia.

  • Clinical signs of PMWS may be impacted by time of year, stressors in the environment and history or presence of other diseases on the farm.

The Pork Board recommends producers follow good sanitation and biosecurity protocols to lessen the severity of the disease.

The Pork Board has allocated $220,000 toward a special research effort on PMWS in 2006.

Pork Management Conference Set

The 2006 Pork Management Conference is slated for April 2-4 at the Caribe Royal Resort in Orlando, FL. The conference was formerly called the Financial Management Conference.

The conference covers U.S. agriculture outlooks, the current picture of global meat proteins, economic profitability, facility costs and value, estate planning and growth of natural and organic pork markets.

A brochure with registration and event information is available through the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675, or via the Internet at www.pork.org.

Illinois Pork Industry Conference

Antibiotic use in swine production is the theme of the 2006 University of Illinois Pork Industry Conference, April 27-28 at the Holiday Inn, Urbana, IL.

The conference objectives include a review of the scientific evidence on the issues related to antibiotic use in livestock production, and consideration of future courses of action, taking into account the benefits and risks of antibiotic use.

Conference pre-registration should be completed by April 17. For further information, contact conference coordinator Gil Hollis at (217) 333-0013 or e-mail hollisg@uiuc.edu.