Preparing for Foreign Animal Disease

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National Pork Board Director of Swine Health Programs Dr. Patrick Webb reviews a recent tabletop exercise designed to help industry stakeholders deal with a foreign animal disease. In this edition of Pork Pod, Webb explains this recent effort and the most current risk of foreign animal disease.


Don Wick


Patrick Webb, Director of Swine Health Programs, National Pork Board




Don Wick: 00:00 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 Dr. Patrick Webb, who is the director of swine health programs for the National Pork Board. The National Pork Board recently participating with stakeholders from within the Ohio Pork industry on a unique tabletop exercise. We’ve seen these before, Patrick, but this one a little bit different? Tell me about it.

Patrick Webb: 00:37 Normally we do an eight hour tabletop course on foreign animal disease, awareness, preparedness and response. And we actually at the request of Ohio Pork repurposed the tabletop to be more of a lead in to Ohio’s efforts in developing an African swine fever response plan. And so we had a lot of a lot of folks in the room that will be working on that including state and federal animal health officials, along with the Ohio Pork swine health committee, their executive director, and other folks that would be leaders at the state level for planning. And so while we did a tabletop per se, the information that was provided and what people learned was kind of setting the stage for moving forward with planning.

Don Wick: 01:24 It’s important that you have the right people in the room when you’re doing some of those kinds of exercises, isn’t it?

Patrick Webb: 01:29 Absolutely. We always strive to get the decision makers in the room around the table with producers. And so then we can basically have those people that would be making the decision in the real world in war time if we were to get African swine fever. You know, working as the subject matter experts or the regulatory authority in the exercise. And so it really does simulate as close as we can, to, you know, a full functional exercise where you go out and do this type of work, but we can do it inside in the comfort of a hotel banquet room with a nice table and toys for people to play with.

Don Wick: 02:05 Patrick, you talk about that. We’ve seen obviously more new stories and regarding the African swine fever. How comfortable are you with where the US stands as far as a foreign animal disease like ASF?

Patrick Webb: 02:20 Well, you know, ASF coming onto the national scene, getting into China, obviously very important to our industry, especially with the amount of trade and travel that you know, occurs between China and the United States as well as the amount of feed inputs that we get. And so, you know, I would say that from the industry perspective, the, the motto is keep it out. And, so when you look at what is normally done, you know, a USDA Veterinary Services and protection and quarantine along the customs and border protection, you know, really are out there and trying to help protect the industry. But there’s always room for improvement as well as from an industry perspective, you know, reevaluating some of the things that we’re doing as far as biosecurity. Reevaluating how we look at feed inputs, that would be coming into the United States from countries that, you know, have African swine fever, or other foreign animal diseases. We can’t forget there’s Classical Swine Fever and Foot and Mouth out there too. And so, you know, I think everybody’s aware. I think everybody’s trying to make sure that they’re, they’re doing everything they can to prevent it, to keep it out. But you know, there’s always room for improvement and that’s what the industry’s been focusing on while working with USDA and customs and border protection is where are those areas that we can funnel resources in order to make sure that we’re doing absolutely everything we can to keep it out.

Don Wick: 03:45 Is that what we’re talking about when we talk about a secure pork supply?

Patrick Webb: 03:49 You know, secure pork supply is an important facet of the response. If we were to get African swine fever into the United States secure pork supply, it would be incredibly valuable for producers to be able to differentiate themselves because they don’t have the disease. And so, you know, it’s an important part of the response. Probably one of the most resonant, you know, factors within the plan is the biosecurity. We’re going to have to have enhanced biosecurity with a disease like African swine fever. And so, you know, that’s something that producers who are working through the program standards for secure pork right now, that’s one of the big things that they need to do is make sure that they have an enhanced biosecurity plan, with some site specific mapping and other and other, requirements that are in that biosecurity plan.

Patrick Webb: 04:38 Having those plans developed and having those plans implemented. You know, at the tabletop, Dr. Tony Forshey who’s the state veterinarian for Ohio basically said to producers, enhanced biosecurity is an everyday, all day type of activity. And it’s vitally important even in peace time that we’re doing that. And I think that resonates back to the national level on keeping it out. We have to, we have to make sure that we’re focusing our efforts on those things from a biosecurity perspective, whether that’s people, whether that’s inputs, whether that’s travel. We got to make sure that we are on the top of our game for keeping it out.

Don Wick: 05:17 You mentioned travel. We live in such a mobile society today that that has to ramp up the concern.

Patrick Webb: 05:23 Certainly. You know, when you look at the number of folks in the pork industry and other industries like the beef industry and dairy, we’ve got what, 5% that feeds the rest of the country. And most people out there don’t understand agriculture. They don’t understand animal diseases, they don’t understand the risk. And we’ve got a lot of travel that occurs between China and the United States. Just the casual traveler going over for vacation and such. And so having those educational materials like we do at for those activities so people can make sure that they’re doing the right things when they’re over in that country. And then the other thing is just making sure that when they’re coming back to check the boxes that, you know, ask them if they’ve been on a farm or make sure that they’re, you know, declaring any products that they bring back.

Patrick Webb: 06:08 There’s a lot of products that are in these countries, especially meat and meat containing products that are not allowed in the United States and these folks needed to help step up and make sure that they’re not putting our industry at risk. Our other, you know, we do a lot of business over in China too. There’s a lot of consultants that go over and we’ve visited with a lot of the major folks that are doing that and they have some pretty restrictive biosecurity standards when they’re doing that type of work. And those are things too that we like to promote to make sure that those in the industry are going over understand what they should and shouldn’t be doing, what they can, can’t bring back.

Don Wick: 06:40 You mentioned the website, what other kinds of resources are available online?

Patrick Webb: 06:44 Certainly, for your general ASF awareness and all of the pieces for biosecurity and for preparedness, you can go to Or if you want to take a look at the secure pork supply plan and work through the program standards to be in compliance, then I would recommend that you go to and click on the producer tab and start walking through the different aspects of the program. And then I really highly recommend producers to start implementing those programs standards so we’re prepared from a response side for business continuity.

Don Wick: 07:21 Patrick Webb from the National Pork Board, thanks to you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit