Foreign Animal Disease Response-Part I

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A working group is working on response preparedness for foreign animal disease. National Pork Board spokesperson Cindy Cunningham outlines the this cooperative effort between the Pork Checkoff, the North American Meat Institute, the U.S. Meat Export Federation and the National Pork Producers Council.


Don Wick


Cindy Cunningham, Human Health Disease, AVP Communications - National Pork Board




Don Wick: 00:01 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines, Iowa, it’s Pork Pod! Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion, and consumer information projects. I’m Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff and today our guest is Cindy Cunningham, the Assistant Vice President of Communications for the National Pork Board. There’s a working group working on response preparedness for foreign animal disease. They had a recent meeting in Denver. Cindy brings us up to speed. What, uh, what was the meeting all about and, and what’s the path forward?

Cindy Cunningham: 00:38 Actually, it’s been a very interesting working group that is focusing on a foreign animal disease and foot and mouth disease, specifically response preparedness for our producers, for our customers and for our industry as a whole. The group includes the North American Meat Institute, the US Meat Export Federation, the National Pork Producers Council, and the National Pork Board. As we work on this issue, our goal really is to be able to coordinate our efforts and our response to a potential foreign animal disease threat to our industry. This would be one of the most significant threats that pork producers and really all of livestock could undertake and we want to make sure that we have the resources in place that we understand the situation and that we’ve thought about how we would respond to a foreign animal disease outbreak here in the United States. If we were to face one. This meeting specifically was looking at the trade implications, so exports are extremely important to our pork producers. About 25 to 28 percent of our US pork is exported to countries around the globe and if we were to get a foreign animal disease outbreak here in the United States, those export markets would potentially close or be restricted. So what does that mean for our producers here in the US? But what does it also mean for customers and consumers around the world who have come to rely on the safe, healthy and wholesome food supply of US pork?

Don Wick: 02:12 I would guess in the preparation phase, communication really is the key. So you’re, you’re ready to go with something would happen.

Cindy Cunningham: 02:19 So actually, if we take a step back and look, not just at the export side of the equation with a response to a foreign animal disease, but the overall response, there are many things that are already in place or operations folks are veterinarians and our science and technology teams at both the National Pork Producers Council and the National Pork Board have worked to coordinate an operational response. So managing the disease itself and trying to get our producers back to business as quickly as usual through things like the secure port supply program and the, the research and work that they do with our, our USDA and AFIS partners. In addition to that, our emergency response plan also looks at communications as a whole from a combat, a consumer and customer standpoint and works also very closely with the cross-species team, which is beef, dairy, pork, and lamb all working together. We want to make sure that the resources that we have to deal with this kind of a situation are pooled together in a manner that would help us to be able to deal with a foreign animal disease outbreak. Um, whether its foot and mouth disease or African swine fever or other diseases that we may face as well, we want to make sure that we are positioning, the resources that we need now to be able to deal with that situation. The international drill that we were a part of is just one aspect within that overall plan.

Don Wick: 03:52 So, are there things a producer can do at this point?

Cindy Cunningham: 03:56 There are several things that a pork producer can do at this point to be prepared for a, for a potential outbreak. First of all, it’s to understand what this disease may look like are these diseases may look like on their farm. We have posters that can be put up in barns, uh, that have foot and mouth disease, that have African swine fever, that have classical swine fever so that their employees understand what to look for and what to do if they see something that could potentially be one of these diseases that’s going to be most critical is getting the disease stopped in the event of an outbreak. Getting it stopped rapidly so that we can potentially halt the spread of the disease. In addition to that, we would encourage all of our pork producers to sign up for the secure port supply program. It’s a new program that is really best understood as a business continuity program.

Cindy Cunningham: 04:48 What it does is help producers work with their state veterinarians, uh, to be identified in advance of a situation so that should they be in a, an area where there is a disease, they become what is known kind of as a known entity, if you will, and have a recorded track record so that state veterinarian can work with them to potentially get them up and running and moving their animals to market and to other places, again more rapidly than if they’re not participating in that program. The other thing that really becomes important for our producers to understand is that these response plans and these situations are built around all of us teaming together and working together to deal with this situation. So if something does happen on your farm, understand that there is a plan that your check-off programs are working on your behalf to deal with these situations and really make sure that you team up and partner with all the resources that are available to you at the farm level, the resources that will be equipped through the state level as well as through the national and federal level.

Cindy Cunningham: 05:54 I think it’s really important to understand that these are animal diseases that we are concerned with. So foot and mouth disease we haven’t had in the United States since 1929 African swine fever, classical swine fever. They’re the primary diseases of concern. They are not in the US at this time. It’s also really important for everyone to understand our producers as well as our customers and consumers to understand that if these diseases do come to the US, your meat and milk supply will still be safe, especially your pork will be safe from all three of these diseases. So they’re not human health diseases in any way. It’s a disease that our producers will have to deal with on their farm and it will be extremely challenging for our industry, but the plan is in place so that the producers will be able to work with their state veterinarians, the state veterinarians will be able to work with the federal veterinarians and there’s a plan to deal with these situations. What we’re trying to do right now is really hone in that plan and make it even more effective.

Don Wick: 06:58 Cindy Cunningham form the National Pork Board. Thanks to you for listening to this addition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit