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An ASF outbreak will now be extraordinary emergency with USDA in charge

If African swine fever (ASF)  hits the U.S., the USDA will declare it an extraordinary emergency and take control, says Greg Ibach, USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs. Ibach made the announcement at National Pork Industry Forum in Kansas City today. Here are highlights of his announcement:

1. Taking a national approach instead of a state approach to ASF gives USDA the ability to regulate not only interstate movement but intrastate movement as well. That will also release emergency funding that USDA has available immediately. 

2. USDA would immediately call a national standstill on pig movements for at least 72 hours. “That will give us time to work with the pork industry in aggressive trace-back investigations to try to determine where we are at with the spread of the disease,” says Ibach. “Where did it come from, how did it present itself at the location we have identified, and where else do we need to look for it? Hopefully we will be able to prevent the disease from spreading further.”

3. After 72 hours, the goal is to phase in movements on a regionalized basis.

4. The USDA is developing a uniform flat rate for reimbursment of cleanup costs to farmers infected. This would be based on the size of the affected farm. “Farmers would know how they would approach that cleanup and what they could expect,” says Ibach. “It would also give them the option of conducting those cleanup activities themselves if they were capable of doing it, and knowing how we would reimburse for that.”

5. The livestock indemnity program is under review. “We would anticipate that we would be looking at a 100% type of indemnification,” says Ibach. “But we want to develop a uniform chart so when you come to USDA, the different classes and grades of animals aren’t different depending which agency you walk into. We are working to develop that within USDA, so we are ready to work with the pork industry to make sure we have an indemnification model that makes sense.”

6. Methods of depopulation are under review. USDA is working with the American Veterinary Medical Association. “We think they have plans in place that we can accept and authorize,” says Ibach. “Those efficient, effective methods that are approved by AMVA will be acceptable to USDA as well.” 

7. The disposal of carcasses is a big challenge. “One thing we learned with avian influenza a few years ago was that little chickens posed a big disposal risk,” says Ibach. “We know the swine herd will pose an even greater disposal challenge.” USDA is working with state partners in animal health as well as individual pork production facilities to develop facility plans for disposal. “We would like those to be based on an on-site disposal so we are not moving virus around as we search for other non on-site disposal areas,” he says. “That will create some challenges. It will depend very much locally on where your groundwater is at and what kind of acreage you have around it. We know it is not a one-size-fits-all. We want to begin working with individual operations to develop those plans that make the most sense and also mitigate the movement of virus around the country.”

8. The No. 1 goal for USDA is to keep ASF out of the United States. “We have had nearly 100 years of success with protocols in place to keep foot-and-mouth disease out of the United States,” points out Ibach. 
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