Industry collaborates to deal with new norm as China passes one-year mark

By Mike King

Aug. 6 marked the one-year anniversary of China acknowledging the presence of African swine fever (ASF) in its herds. It’s been anything but business as usual since then, as the U.S. pork industry and other partners have come together to deal with the ongoing ASF threat that now has engulfed much of southeast Asia.  “We’re definitely in a better position today to address a foreign animal disease (FAD) such as ASF,” said National Pork Board President David Newman, a pork producer who represents Arkansas.

“That said, we can never be too prepared with such a devastating disease,” Newman said. “I appreciate how much our industry has come together over the past 12 months in a spirit of collaboration to get the job done.”

The “New Norm”

The ASF situation in China and other Asian countries likely won’t get better in the near-term and could be the “new norm” for the foreseeable future, according to Dave Pyburn, Checkoff’s senior vice president of science and technology.
“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 said.

He added, “Industry-wide collaboration has been key. It’s gratifying to see how willing the pork industry is to come together for a common goal. We are much more effective together in solving issues posed by threats such as ASF.”  Newman is excited for what he sees as the fruition of long- and short-term investments in U.S. disease preparedness.

“When you consider how far we’ve come in the last year and what’s on the horizon in terms of tools to help every U.S. pig farmer fight threats such as ASF, it’s reassuring,” – David Newman, National Pork Board President

“This has happened because we’ve been deliberate in how we’ve approached this challenge by breaking down silos to find solutions.”

Pyburn points to upcoming technology innovations that the Checkoff continues to develop. This includes the software interface to enhance the Secure Pork Supply program’s ability to protect business continuity during an outbreak of ASF or other disease challenges.

Catalyst for Collaboration

For the past year, the Pork Checkoff has taken a leading role in collaborating with multiple government and industry partners to protect the United States from ASF. Primary partners in this effort include USDA, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), the North American Meat Institute, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the Swine Health Information Center. With feed biosecurity issues, the American Feed Industry Association also has been essential to the effort.

“By combining 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 other threats,” Pyburn said.
The pork industry’s response to ASF can be broken into four main areas: Research, education, prevention and preparedness.
“We continue to focus on being prepared for the possibility of ASF,” Pyburn said.

National Swine Disease Council Takes Bigger Role

As with any ongoing pork industry issue, change and refinement of the approach continues. An example is the National Swine Disease Council (NSDC), announced last January. This broad-based industry group will take on a larger role in coordinating industry’s efforts to fighting ASF and related disease threats.

The NSDC was formed 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:
• Coordinate industry preparedness and response
• Protect trade and interstate commerce of pigs, pork and pork products
• Build capacity to rapidly detect diseases of concern and limit the scope of a disease outbreak
• Serve as the industry touchpoint
• Make recommendations for regulatory officials.

“The organizations in the council will collaborate even more closely moving with this approach,” said Liz Wagstrom, NPPC chief veterinarian. ‘In the end, we have to improve disease detection, assessment, containment and eradication.”