During a luncheon speech at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines Thursday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told a crowd of pork producers and media that a Federal Order had been issued requiring hog operations with an outbreak to report it to USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and state animal health officials.
The reporting covers herds struck by porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) or deltacoronavirus (PDCOV). Vilsack recalled that "a year ago at this convention the outbreak of PEDV had hit a small number of herds, about 100," he says. "Now more than 4,700 herds have been impacted and there are 150 to 200 outbreaks per month."
The seriousness of the disease isn't lost on the producers attending this year's conference where a PEDV seminar filled a meeting room to over-flowing.
The new federal order, however, was a surprise in its immediacy. The reporting rule is now in effect, though Dr. John Clifford, USDA's chief veterinary officer, told media that it may take as much as four weeks for the agency to be completely up to speed.
Reporting farms will also be required to keep monitoring data as part of the order that may be used later for any epidemiological investigation underway, Clifford explained.
Vilsack notes that "the number of market-ready hogs this summer cold fall by more than 10 percent relative to 2013 because of PEDV. Together with industry and our state partners, the steps we will take through the Federal Order will strengthen the response to PEDV and these other viruses and help us lessen the impact to producers, which ultimately benefit the consumers who have seen store pork prices rise almost 10 percent in the past year."
Breaking down the costs
Vilsack announced $26.2 million in funding to combat these diseases to be used in a variety of programs which he also outlined:
* $3.9 million to be used by USDA's Agricultural Research Service to support vaccine development.
* $2.4 million to cooperative agreement funding for states to support management and control activities.
* $500,000 to herd veterinarians to help with development and monitoring of herd management plans and sample collection.
* $11.1 million to cost-share funding for producers of infect herds to support biosecurity practices.
* $2.4 million for diagnostic testing.
* $1.5 million to National Animal Health Laboratory Network diagnostic laboratories for genomic sequencing for newly positive herds.
The funding is available immediately and Vilsack says the agency is already requesting more funds in the 2015 budget, which he is optimistic will pass. "We don't want to see another government shutdown," he notes.
There is an enforcement component to the new rule, but Vilsack says: "I trust producers and it is in their best interest to work with us." One benefit of reporting will be access to funds as part of this program.
The APHIS Federal Order requires producers, veterinarians and diagnostic laborators to report all cases of PEDV and other new swine enteric coronavirus disease to USDA and State animal health officials. According to a USDA statement, the industry is already "seeing herds previously impacted by the viruse become re-infected, and routine and standard disease reporting will help identify the magnitude of the disease in the United States and can help determine whether additional actions are needed."
The Federal Order also requires that operations reporting these viruses work with their veterinarian or USDA or State animal health officiles to develop and implement a "reasonable management plan to address the detected virus and prevent its spread." The agency says plans will be based on "industry-recommended best practices, and include disease monitoring through testing and biosecurity measures. These steps will help to reduce virus shed in affected animals, prevent further spread of the disease, and enable continued movement of animals for production and processing."
There is concern of USDA collecting information from farmers and privacy protections that would be in place. Vilsack notes the data will be collected using the farm identification numbers which will aid in keeping information private.
Farmers are admittedly wary of government data gathering - even with USDA being a friendly collector - after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released private livestock data last year.
During his talk Vilsack mentioned border concerns and a potential need to strengthen the border given the potential for new diseases to enter the country.
Dr. Tom Burkgren, head of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) notes that there are 44 diseases outside the United States that could impact the livestock industry if allowed to cross the border.
In a post-Vilsack conversation a group of pork industry leaders met with media to discuss the new Federal Order and their concerns going forward. In a press release, three groups - the National Pork Board (NPB), the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and the AASV, say they met with Vilsack ahead of his talk and asked him to commit to:
* Conducting in-depth investigations to discover the pathway PEDV used to enter the United States.
* Collaborating with the U.S. pork industry to fund, prioritize, coordinate and conduct research on the virus.
* Coordinating with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Homeland Security and the pork industry to enhance the biosecurity of feed and feed ingredients.
* Collaborating with the National Animal Health Laboratory Network to ensure seamless and efficient inter-laboratory communications and data sharing.
* Providing funding for diagnostic testing and viral genetic sequencing to gather information needed to control the disease.
* Providing funding to enhance agricultural biosecurity, including on farms, in packing and processing plants and at U.S. border entry points.
The pork leaders talked about funding that has already been released for work on PEDV including $2 million from the NPB, which was released last year when the outbreak began. Recently the board also released another $866,500 for action on the disease.
The $26.2 million from USDA will be a significant boost to what is being spent to help solve the issues surrounding PEDV.
As for data reporting, there is concern about privacy but Dr. Ron Prestage, president-elect, NPPC, talked about the outbreak of PEDV in North Carolina, where his operations are located. "This is not like Iowa, the farms in eastern North Carolina are very close to each other," he notes.
The major producers including Goldsboro, Murphy-Brown and Prestage got together and started tracking outbreaks and other data in a master spreadsheet that was shared. "There isn't a problem sharing this data," he says.
Dr. Howard Hill, NPPC president, notes that farm groups will benefit from data collection as long as its shared. The groups point to work at the University of Minnesota, originally set up to track PRRS that's now a tool for tracking PEDV. The data collected includes information from 16 operations, 778 farms and 2.5 million sows. That information helps track severity of an outbreak and its duration, and the aggregated offers trend information for farmers, and is reported weekly.
There is a worry that the requirement for management plans as part of the Federal Order might create a "bureaucratic red tape nightmare" which will exist until the requirements are more fully known. "What's the expectation of the plan? [Major producers] Iowa Select, Prestage and Murphy-Brown already have plans," Prestage says.
The Federal Order is in place, immediate reporting will be required, but there are more questions to be answered. "We hope that USDA is flexible in the application of the plans," says AASVs Burkgren