Advocacy in action
Swine sector meeting with APHIS

On October 30, 2014, Mr Kevin Shea, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) administrator, held the second annual meeting with stakeholders from the swine industry at USDA Headquarters in Washington, DC. The purpose of this meeting was to talk about the priorities and challenges facing the swine industry, as well as the ways APHIS can work with the industry to protect swine health and support the industry’s continued profitability.

The AASV was represented at the meeting by Dr Michelle Sprague, AASV president; and Dr Harry Snelson, director of communications. The National Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council were also represented. Numerous agencies within USDA were represented by department leadership.

Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) was obviously a major topic of interest. The group discussed matters associated with the success and failure of the USDA and industry response, laboratory reporting issues, data management, and issues involving the federal order and its future. In addition to PEDV, however, the following points were also put forth by the industry stakeholders.

Progress on comprehensive and integrated surveillance. Although it has been under development for several years, the industry has not seen a plan for incorporation by USDA. The USDA responded that they agree with the shift to a comprehensive surveillance program and are working to convert existing program disease plans to the more all-inclusive strategy inherent to comprehensive surveillance.

Response plan for emerging diseases. Because there is currently no response plan for emerging diseases, the industry has been working diligently to develop an industry response plan for emerging production diseases of swine. The plan will be presented for producer approval at Pork Forum in March, 2015. The USDA Veterinary Services (VS) and State Animal Health Officials (SAHOs) have been represented in the group developing the plan. We have also been provided a draft of a proposed plan developed by VS. We asked APHIS to consider the industry’s plan or to work with industry to merge the two plans. Concurrently, the National Pork Board is working on development of the Swine Health Information Center that will guide the industry in anticipating and preparing for new production diseases. We expect VS and SAHOs to be partners in the center.

Status of the porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) program. Industry stakeholders expressed concern at the limited benefits realized as a result of the federal order and questioned USDA regarding its future when the money runs out. The future of the program remains unclear.

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) vaccine availability. We applaud APHIS’ decision to change the FMD control strategy from stamping out to vaccination, and for including the industry in discussions leading up to the change. We are, however, very concerned about APHIS’ ability to expand the antigen bank and provide quantities of vaccine needed to address the surge capacity necessary in the event of an outbreak. The current plan for providing vaccine will simply not work with the change in policy. The pork industry is very pleased with the decision by VS to involve the industry in finding a solution to the vaccine shortage. The stakeholders challenged USDA to adequately fund the needed additions to the FMD vaccine stockpile and ensure access to adequate quantities of vaccine to support their response plan.

National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN). The pork industry is very concerned about lack of adequate funding for the NAHLN laboratories. Funds are needed to support further diagnostic work on samples from farms with clinical disease for which no diagnosis is made for known diseases. PED is a prime example. We emphasized the importance of the NAHLN laboratory system and encouraged APHIS to seek additional funds to fully support the NAHLN laboratories. We also expressed concern about the inability of the NAHLN laboratories to communicate with each other and our industry. In today’s world, where everything is done electronically, the laboratory system is still using spreadsheets to report results. This must be improved. Another issue of major concern is the lack of transparency by the NAHLN laboratories. Issues associated with protection of intellectual property rights have delayed the sharing of pathogens and information. Does APHIS have the authority to compel timely reporting?

Mandatory disease reporting. The USDA has been working for a number of years to develop a list of federally reportable diseases. The USDA proposed rule would mandate that anyone with knowledge of the presence of any of the diseases on the list report that information to USDA. The USDA has developed a draft concept paper and preliminary list of diseases. As yet, there is no official timeline for implementation. The documents are being circulated for comment among members of the United States Animal Health Association and state animal-health officials.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR). We would like further explanation of VS’ role in the regulatory framework of AMR. The Food and Drug Administration, as well as some members of Congress, continue to call for access to information regarding the on-farm use of antimicrobials. The USDA has offered to help collect such information and has conducted pilot projects with a number of universities to determine possible routes of access. From a research standpoint, USDA has primarily concentrated on exploring alternatives to antimicrobial use.

Trade facilitation. Approximately 26% of US pork production is exported, and that number is expected to grow. APHIS’ work on trade is one of the most important functions performed for the pork industry. The support APHIS provides in gaining and maintaining market access for US pork is greatly appreciated, and we hope it will continue to be a high priority when budget decisions are made.

Although we may not have always received the answers we would have liked (or, in some cases, any answer at all), we do appreciate the opportunity to meet with Administrator Shea and the APHIS leadership. We are grateful for the cooperation with VS and APHIS on issues affecting the pork industry. Our industry will continue to support APHIS and defend its importance to the livestock industry. At the same time, our industry will be quick to point out actions with which we disagree because of the potentially negative impact on animal health, animal well-being, public health, pork producers, and veterinarians.

Harry Snelson, DVM Director of Communications