Representatives of the National Pork Producers Council, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Corn Growers Association and Iowa State University today called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to move as quickly as possible to establish a Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine bank.
At a press conference today, these groups recognized the steps USDA has taken to establish the bank, but called for expedient use of mandatory funding included in the 2018 Farm Bill to purchase the volume of vaccines required to effectively contain and eradicate an FMD outbreak. Currently, the USDA, which has prescribed vaccination for dealing with an FMD outbreak, does not have access to enough vaccine to avoid devastating economic consequences to the U.S. economy, should an outbreak occur.
FMD is an infectious viral disease that affects cloven-hooved animals, including cattle, pigs and sheep; it is not a food safety or human health threat. The disease is endemic in many parts of the world and would have widespread, long-term fallout for livestock and crop agriculture, including the immediate loss of export markets. According to Iowa State University research, an outbreak would result in $128 billion in losses for the beef and pork sectors, $44 billion and $25 billion, respectively, to the corn and soybean farmers, and job losses of more than 1.5 million across U.S. agriculture over 10 years.
“If the U.S. had a large outbreak of FMD, it may be impossible to control without the rapid availability of adequate supplies of vaccine,” said Dr. James Roth, a professor in the department of Veterinary Microbiology and Preventative Medicine at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, during today’s press conference. “The U.S. vaccine bank is our best insurance policy to respond to an FMD outbreak in the United States. As with most insurance policies, we hope to never use it, but it’s paramount that we have fast access to enough vaccine if we ever need it. The funding provided in the 2018 Farm Bill provides a good start toward building up a more robust FMD vaccine stockpile to help protect American agriculture,” he added.
“U.S. pork producers and other farmers are currently faced with a wide range of challenges, including export market uncertainties, flooding and other weather events,” said NPPC Chief Veterinarian Liz Wagstrom. “Unlike challenges beyond our control, a solution for FMD preparedness is in our grasp. We urge USDA to move as quickly as possible to establish the bank.”
“Livestock is a very important customer for U.S. corn farmers and each is crucial to the success of the other,” said Sarah McKay, director of Market Development at the National Corn Growers Association. “A foreign animal disease outbreak would have an estimated $4 billion a year impact on corn farmers, which would be disastrous on top of current market conditions. In addition, an outbreak may also impact exports of animal ag products. On average, pork exports contribute 28 cents a bushel to the price of corn, so the control of infectious diseases via a vaccine bank is important not only to livestock producers but corn growers as well.”
“The time to build a best-in-class FMD Vaccine Bank is now,” said Jamie Jonker, Ph.D., vice president for Sustainability & Scientific Affairs at the National Milk Producers Federation. “NMPF has been active in informing our members and the dairy community of the importance of preparation, and a vaccine bank is a crucial element of protection for the entire livestock industry. We are excited to work with other stakeholders and with USDA to reach this goal.”