Advocacy in action
Secure Pork Supply

It has finally begun! The swine industry has long recognized the need to develop a strategic plan to address business continuity issues and supply-chain concerns regarding pork production in the face of a serious animal-health emergency such as an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. Funding and resource commitments have finally been secured to begin the process of developing such a plan along the lines of similar projects already underway for the egg (Secure Egg Supply) and dairy (Secure Milk Supply) industries.

The objective of this effort is to bring together a working group encompassing all aspects of pork production to develop a plan that would maintain a secure pork supply for the public while ensuring continued operations for swine producers and processors, all while working to prevent the spread of disease and minimize the losses of export markets. Coordination of the project is being led by the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine through collaboration with a number of allied groups, including AASV, National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, University of Minnesota’s Center for Animal Health and Food Safety, United States Department of Agriculture (Veterinary Services and Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health), National Center for Animal Health and Emergency Management, and pork processors, just to name a few.

A key element of maintaining business continuity within the swine industry is the ability to continue the movement of animals, necessary inputs, and animal products. The Secure Egg Supply and Secure Milk Supply projects have addressed the movement of products within those industries, but the movement of live animals poses a much more difficult challenge when attempting to control the spread of a highly infectious disease. The movement of live animals is a critical component of modern swine production, which is very much a “push-pull” model lacking significant excess capacity. Thus, even short-term disruptions in our ability to move animals or necessary inputs (such as feed or semen) will result in significant challenges to continued production and may contribute to additional welfare concerns. The Secure Pork Supply project will be the first to address these challenges in livestock.

Foot-and-mouth disease is being used as the model for discussions associated with this project because of its multi-species nature and high infectivity. The guidelines developed, however, could likely be applied to basically any foreign-animal disease (FAD), including classical swine fever, African swine fever, and swine vesicular disease. It is likely that the introduction of any FAD would result in animal quarantines and movement restrictions as well as the complete loss of all export markets. Hundreds of thousands of pigs are on the road each day, moving between premises or to harvest. The industry currently exports in excess of 25% of US pork products. Obviously, any stop-movement actions will result in dramatic challenges for swine farmers and pork producers.

Veterinarians will play an integral role in the detection of and response to any FAD outbreak. It appears likely that, where appropriate, vaccination will play a major role in disease control and elimination. This will mean that animals will be allowed to live and continue through the production channels, resulting in additional testing requirements to permit the movement of susceptible animals potentially exposed to disease. Veterinarians will be called on to oversee vaccination and sample collection efforts as a means to facilitate the epidemiologic analysis of the outbreak necessary to ensure business continuity and ultimately regain disease-free status and market access.

In addition to these activities, veterinarians will also likely be called on to verify biosecurity practices put in place prior to the outbreak that will allow participating premises to be designated as “monitored” premises. Participation in the Secure Pork Supply Plan, although voluntary, would facilitate designation of production compartments that could be recognized as disease free. The plan would rely heavily on establishment and implementation of biosecurity standards that would be put in place prior to any FAD outbreak and audited under the authority of the state animal-health official. Compliance with these standards would have on-going benefits to the industry by aiding in control of endemic diseases, as well as minimizing the opportunity for FAD introductions and spread.

The inaugural meeting of the Secure Pork Supply Plan Advisory Committee met in early October at the Iowa Pork Producers Association’s headquarters in Clive, Iowa. The group identified a number of overarching topics associated with achieving the project’s objectives. These topics included biosecurity, surveyed or monitored premises and compartmentalization, surveillance, data management, communication, risk assessment, and what happens if the outbreak occurs tomorrow. Working groups were established to address each of these topics. Industry representatives are currently being recruited to fill these working groups.

The Secure Pork Supply Plan will be a long-term project but one which could significantly impact business continuity within the pork industry. Participation in the planning, implementation, and verification phases of the project are integral to its success. The plan represents recognition of the need to design a strategy that minimizes the impact of an FAD and promotes the continued viability of the swine industry.

-- Harry Snelson, DVM
AASV Director of Communications