In a move to help bolster hog prices and accelerate cleanup of the pseudorabies virus (PRV), USDA has announced a buyout program for the nation's remaining approximately 1,100 infected herds.

The program could fuel exports of market hogs to Canada for processing, help ease the bottleneck at U.S. slaughter plants and boost hog prices, according to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

Details Of The Plan In early January during a trek to Iowa, Vice President Al Gore made the announcement of the emergency transfer of $80 million in funds from the Commodity Credit Corp. for the voluntary USDA program.

Under the six-month federal plan, PRV-positive herds choosing to participate would be depopulated and compensated based on present "fair market value." The fair market value is a combination of a per-pound compensation and a "producer cost offset" that is a fixed amount per head, says Paul Sundberg, DVM, assistant vice president, Veterinary Issues, NPPC. The per-pound compensation will be updated weekly. It will be based on the average of the previous week's weighted average base market price (Iowa/southern Minnesota) for a 185-lb. carcass (49-51% lean) multiplied by 0.74 to arrive at the live price. This per-pound compensation applies to all hogs depopulated, regardless of class, size, age or weight.

The "producer cost offset" is designed to cover the producer costs to participate in the program. NPPC's Sundberg stresses that compensation hinges on when the producer contacts USDA to express interest in the program. The first time block is 30 days from the start of the program (Jan. 14, 1999). The second is the next 30 days with the third and final time block to the end of the program, July 14, or until allotted funds expire. Program payments are as follows:

Producer Cost Offset, Dollars/Head Swine Class--Block 1--Block 2--Block 3 Hogs > 200 lb.--$5--$3--$0 Pigs < 200 lb.--$20--$10--$5 Breeders--$50--$35--$25

Breeders are defined as all swine on the farm, six months or older, intended for use in breeding.

The producer's final compensation will consist of adding the per-head return (based on the number of head) times the "producer cost offset" to the per-pound compensation. The latter is based on the total weight of the depopulated hogs times the appropriate market price.

In addition to indemnity for the value of the animals, USDA will also cover the producer costs for animal transportation, equipment and carcass disposal.

Because slaughter facilities are operating at full capacity, all animals from PRV-infected herds will be rendered. Weights are set the date of depopulation.

According to USDA, all herds that are nearing completion of cleanup and quarantine release, have the option of continuing the present eradication program or participating in the accelerated program.

Producers can repopulate 30 days after approved cleaning and disinfecting, according to federal PRV regulations.

Producers interested in learning more about the accelerated eradication program should contact their state veterinarian or federal area veterinarian in charge in their state (see list below).

They may also contact their state pork producer association which can refer them to the appropriate contact for participation. Producers can also get more details by visiting NPPC's Web site at www.nppc.org. Producers can also contact the USDA PRV hotline for further information at (800) 601-9327 or visit the USDA Web site at www.aphis.usda.gov.

Why Acceleration Now? Depressed market prices have caused a number of producers with PRV-infected herds to forego vaccination, due to the added expense. The cost of PRV to pork producers alone is put at more than $30 million annually. Of this amount, more than half, $17 million, represents the cost of vaccination. Another $11 million is due to pig deaths, with the remainder of the money spent on testing.

Stopping vaccination now could seriously hinder the current eradication program, says USDA. Such action could increase the spread of the PRV virus from infected herds to unvaccinated herds.

The current eradication program calls for completion by the end of the year 2000. Plans are to depopulate as many known infected herds as possible in the first half of 1999. Producers choosing not to participate in the accelerated program, must still abide by PRV eradication program standards.

The pork industry has been impacted by PRV since the mid-'70s. The eradication program began in 1989.

A producer interested in learning more about the accelerated PRV cleanup program should contact their state veterinarian or Federal Area Veterinarian in Charge (AVIC) in their respective state.

Listed below are the names and telephone numbers for the 14 states reporting PRV-positive herds at the end of 1998.

California - State veterinarian, Richard Breitmeyer, (916) 654-0881. AVIC, Paul Ugstad, (916) 857-6170.

Florida - State veterinarian, Leroy Coffman, (850) 488-7747. AVIC, U. J. Lane, (352) 333-3120.

Illinois - State veterinarian, Richard Hull, (217) 782-4944. AVIC, Gifford Jacobsen, (217) 241-6689.

Indiana - State veterinarian, Bret Marsh, (317) 227-0300. AVIC, Francisco Collazo-Mattei, (317) 290-3300.

Iowa - State veterinarian, Walter Felker, (515) 281-5305. AVIC, Kevin Petersburg, (515) 284-4140, program signup, (888) 778-7675.

Louisiana - State veterinarian, Maxwell Lea Jr., (504) 925-3980. AVIC (vacant), (225) 389-0436, ask for federal epidemiologist Clayton Robison.

Massachusetts - State veterinarian, Lorraine O'Conner, (617) 727-3000. AVIC, Bill Smith, (508) 865-1421.

Michigan - State veterinarian, Harry Chaddock, (517) 373-1077. AVIC, Reed Macarty, (517) 694-7410.

Minnesota - State veterinarian, Thomas Hagerty, (651) 296-2942, ext. 16. AVIC, David Vogt, (651) 290-3691.

Nebraska - State veterinarian, Larry Williams, (402) 471-2351; AVIC, Kathleen Akin, (402) 434-2300.

North Carolina - State veterinarian, John Atwell, (919) 733-7601. AVIC (vacant), (919) 513-4170, ask for Terry Clark, DVM, or acting AVIC.

Pennsylvania - State veterinarian, John Enck Jr., (717) 783-6677. AVIC, Lynne Siegfried, (717) 782-3442.

South Dakota - State veterinarian, Samuel Holland, (605) 773-3321. AVIC, Lynn Tesar, (605) 224-6186.

Texas - State veterinarian, Terry Beals, (512) 719-0714. AVIC, Phillip Pickerill, (512) 916-5555.