Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, urged U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to approve disaster assistance for small pork producers affected by a deadly virus that is hitting pig farms across the country. The porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) has killed an estimated four million pigs nationwide since April 2013, with significant implications for the agricultural economy. The 2014 Farm Bill, signed into law last month, permanently extends critical livestock disaster assistance programs that could help producers in North Carolina, Michigan and 24 other states cope with the virus and manage the spread of the disease.
“Pork producers that have been impacted by PEDV face economic devastation, these producers are finally experiencing periods of higher margins after prolonged periods of razor thin profits. If this disease persists, pork herds will continue to diminish and producers risk going out of business,” the Senators wrote in a letter to Secretary Vilsack.
Additionally, the Senators asked the USDA to increase research for a vaccine and other interventions to address PEDV, for which no vaccine or treatment currently exists.
The unmitigated spread of PEDV poses a serious threat to the agricultural economy as the pork industry supports nearly 550,000 jobs across the country and contributes $34.5 billion to the U.S. economy. PEDV has a reported mortality rate of nearly 100 percent for piglets under two weeks old and ultimately kills 50 to 80 percent of all newborn and suckling pigs. Older feeder or grower pigs are more capable of fighting the virus, suffering only a 1 to 3 percent death rate. The virus has occurred in Europe and Asia, but last spring was the first instance of PEDV in the United States.
A copy of the letter can be found below.
March 11, 2014
The Honorable Thomas Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
We are writing today in regards to a new virus that is devastating the pork industry, porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV). PEDV has killed over 4 million pigs in the United States since April 2013. The virus has a reported mortality rate of nearly 100 percent for piglets under two weeks old. Consequently, pork producers that have been impacted by PEDV face economic devastation, these producers are finally experiencing periods of higher margins after prolonged periods of razor thin profits. If this disease persists, pork herds will continue to diminish and producers risk going out of business.
The 2014 Farm Bill permanently extended the livestock disaster program. We encourage you to utilize the livestock disaster programs to help producers in North Carolina, Michigan and the other 24 states that are coping with this devastating virus. Much like the rest of the livestock industry that suffered drought, fires and blizzards, these pork producers have no safety net to help compensate for their losses.
We also understand that USDA is collaborating with pork industry stakeholders on research for a vaccine and other interventions to address PEDV. We applaud these efforts and encourage you to find ways to increase research and efforts to stop this devastating disease.
Thank you for your efforts and consideration of this request.
Kay R. Hagan, United States Senator
Debbie Stabenow, United States Senator