As the one-year anniversary of China’s acknowledgment of ASF in its country’s herds nears (August 3), it’s a good time to evaluate where the U.S. pork industry stands in its ability to deal with this ongoing threat that has now engulfed much of southeast Asia.
 
“We’re definitely in a better position today to deal with a threat such as African swine fever,” says National Pork Board President David Newman, a producer representing Arkansas. “That said, we can never be too prepared with a devastating disease like this. What I like though is how much our industry has come together over the past 12 months in a spirit of collaboration to get the job done.”
 
It’s this kind of industry-wide collaboration that Dave Pyburn, the Pork Checkoff’s senior vice president of science and technology, says is the key point that he wants everyone to realize. “It’s always gratifying to see how willing the pork industry is to come together for a common goal. We are so much more effective when we get together to solve issues posed by threats such as ASF.”
 
Catalyst for Collaboration
For almost a year, the Pork Checkoff has taken a leading role in collaborating with multiple government and industry partners to protect the United States from African swine fever (ASF). Primary partners in this effort include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Pork Producers Council, the North American Meat Institute, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the Swine Health Information Center. When it comes to working on feed biosecurity issues specifically, the American Feed Industry Association has also been essential to the effort.
 
By combining their resources, these organizations and others have been able to achieve a comprehensive response to ASF that has helped to harden the defenses of the domestic swine industry against this costly foreign animal disease and others like it.
 
“You can break our industry response to ASF into four main areas,” Pyburn says. “We have research, education, prevention and preparedness, which is where we will continue to focus our combined efforts.” 
 
National Swine Disease Council Takes Bigger Role
As with any ongoing issue facing the pork industry, change and refinement of the approach continues. An example of this is the National Swine Disease Council (NSDC), which was announced last January. Starting soon, this broad-based industry group will take on a larger role in overall coordination of the industry’s efforts in fighting ASF and related disease threats.
 
The mission statement of the NSDC is to provide recommendations to animal health officials and industry stakeholders to mitigate threats and negative impacts to the U.S. pork industry from diseases of concern. Its objectives are to coordinate industry preparedness and response activities, protect trade and interstate commerce of pigs, pork and pork products and build capacity to rapidly detect diseases of concern and limit the scope of a disease outbreak. Finally, the council will serve as the industry touchpoint and make recommendations for regulatory officials.
 
Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian with the National Pork Producers Council, says, “The organizations who make up the National Swine Disease Council have much experience in working together, and we will be able to collaborate even more closely moving forward with this approach. In the end, we have to improve disease detection, assessment, containment and eradication.”
 
2019 and Beyond
In looking ahead, the ASF situation in China and other Asian countries won’t likely get better in the near-term and could be the “new normal” for the foreseeable future. However, Checkoff’s Newman is excited for what he sees as the fruition of long- and short-term investments in disease preparedness here in the United States. 
 
“When you consider how far we’ve come in just the last year and then what’s on the horizon in terms of tools to help every U.S. pig farmer fight threats like ASF, it’s reassuring,” Newman says. “This has happened because we’ve been deliberate in how we’ve approached this challenge by breaking down silos to find solutions.”
 
“The Pork Checkoff will continue to focus on creating useful tools and delivering relevant information to producers and the entire pork chain in the year ahead,” Pyburn says. “It’s why we’re, here and it’s what we’re determined to do.”
 
Original article July 25, The Pork Checkoff
Checkoff Stays Vigilant as ASF Marks One Year in China