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Your Government Comes to Aid of U.S. Pork Producers

Tom Vilsack came to the World Pork Expo in Des Moines on Thursday and said: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”

It’s an old joke, and those weren’t his exact words. Regardless, it’s a good summation of what he said to a packed meeting room at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. And the pork producers who heard the Secretary of Agriculture pledge $30 million in federal funds to combat the disease PEDv (Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus) didn’t laugh; they applauded. It’s exactly what pork industry leadership had asked for from USDA to help fight the disease that has killed at least 10% of the pigs born in the last year.

PED came on quickly last year. “If I had come to this meeting last year, there were only about 100 producers who had seen PED,” said Vilsack. “Now, there are about 150 new farms seeing it every week. In total, at least 4,700 farms have now been infected. We need to deal with it aggressively.”

The money that Vilsack pledged is available immediately by federal order, no congressional approval required. $26 million is from this year’s budget, and Vilsack intends to get another $4 million in the 2015 fiscal year budget for fighting PED.

Perhaps the most significant part of the order is that it will require producers, veterinarians, and diagnostic labs to report all cases of PED (and related coronavirus diseases) to USDA and state animal health officials. Up to now, such reporting has been voluntary. Vilsack said mandatory reporting will help officials monitor, trace, and control the disease. It will also allow them to bring stringent biosecurity measures to farms and regions that are infected.

Vilsack said $3.9 million of the appropriation will go towards development of a PED vaccine; $11.1 million will be used for cost-share funding for producers of infected herds to support biosecurity on their farms; $2.4 million will go to states to support management and control activities. “The pork industry is too important to this country for us not to take action,” he said.

He also said some of the funding will be used to try to determine the exact source of PED entry to the U.S. “We don’t know definitively where it came from, but we do know we need to work on our border control issues to reduce these risks,” Vilsack said. Other industry experts have said the virus is of Chinese origin and likely came to the U.S. as a hitchhiker with one of the many things we import from there.

Howard Hill, president of the National Pork Producers Council, said the industry was very pleased with Vilsack’s announcement, and that $30 million is exactly what industry leadership had requested.

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