National Pork Producers Council leaders and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association were happy with the version of the Farm Bill that was approved by members of the House on Thursday, and NPPC urges quick action by the Senate. The House version contains several provisions important to U.S. pork producers, the organization said in a news release.
“Chief among the important provisions is language establishing and funding a Foot-and-Mouth Disease vaccine bank,” the release said. Although FMD is not a food safety or human health threat, it would be financially devastating to the U.S. animal livestock industry if an outbreak occurred in this country
FMD is a highly infectious viral disease that affects cloven-hooved animals, including cattle, pigs and sheep. It is not a food safety or human health threat. Although it was last detected in the United States in 1929, the disease is endemic in many parts of the world and would be financially devastating to U.S. agriculture if an outbreak were to occur.
“Pork producers are pleased that the House approved its 2018 Farm Bill,” said Jim Heimerl in the NPPC release. He is a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio, and serves as president of NPPC, which has been the leading advocate for an FMD vaccine bank.
According to the International Office of Epizootics, the U.S. has had nine FMD outbreaks since it was first recognized on the northeastern coast in 1870.
“The most devastating outbreak occurred in 1914: It originated from Michigan, but its entry into the Chicago stockyards turned it into an epizootic event. About 3,500 livestock herds were infected across the U.S., totaling over 170,000 cattle, sheep, and swine,” the IOE said. “The eradication came at a cost of US$4.5 million, a huge sum of money in 1914.”
It said the last known case in the U.S. was in 1929.
Cattlemen Also Pleased
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Kevin Kester issued the following statement in response to the U.S. House of Representative's 213-211 vote to approve the farm bill:
"Today’s vote means that American cattlemen and women are one step closer to having the certainty they need to continue running their operations and contributing to rural economies,” Kester said. “We are glad the House-passed bill addresses a number of priorities for producers, including authorization and funding for a national vaccine bank that prioritizes Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) prevention. The bill also strengthens conservation programs and improves USDA’s foreign market development activities. House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway and all those who voted ‘yes’ deserve a great deal of thanks for their support.”
NPPC asked lawmakers for funding in each year of the next Farm Bill of $250 million – $150 million for the vaccine bank, $70 million for state block grants for disease prevention and $30 million for the network of laboratories that provide disease diagnostic support.
The House version of the five-year agricultural blueprint includes those amounts only for the first year, NPPC said. “For each of the other years, it has $30 million for state block grants and $20 million to be used at the Agriculture secretary’s discretion for the grants, labs and the vaccine bank. While the Senate legislation calls for an FMD vaccine bank, it includes money only for the labs,” NPPC said.
“The United States is not prepared for an FMD outbreak, so we really need to have the full five-year mandatory funding,” said Heimerl in the release. “We hope the Senate heeds our plea. We can’t afford the financial devastation this disease would wreak on farmers and the U.S. economy.”
Other Programs Supported, Too
NPPC reports that the House bill also includes funding for the NPPC-supported Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program, both of which help support exports markets for U.S. goods. It said the programs are consolidated as the International Market Development Program.
Additionally, the measure has money for feral swine eradication, NPPC reports. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are an estimated 5 million feral swine in at least 39 states; the cost of controlling them and the amount of damage they do is about $1.5 billion annually.