The National Pork Producers Council was encouraged that the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry included in its 2018 Farm Bill language establishing a vaccine bank to deal with an outbreak of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD).
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. Although the disease was last detected in the United States in 1929, it is endemic in many parts of the world.
Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the agriculture panel will mark up its bill June 13. The full House is expected to vote on its measure, which also includes FMD language, June 22.
“This is encouraging news for the livestock industry,” said NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio, and chairman of NPPC’s Farm Bill Policy Task Force. “With a vaccine bank, we’ll finally be able to adequately prepare for an FMD outbreak. But we do need mandatory funding to make it work.”
NPPC has been urging lawmakers to include for each year of the next five-year Farm Bill mandatory funding of $150 million for the vaccine bank, $70 million in block grants to the states for disease prevention and $30 million for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), which provides diagnostic support to assist in managing diseases in the United States.
Currently, the United States does not have access to enough FMD vaccine to handle more than a small, localized outbreak. According to Iowa State University economists, an FMD outbreak in the United States, which would prompt countries to close their markets to U.S. meat exports, would cost the beef and pork industries a combined $128 billion over 10 years if farmers weren’t able to combat the disease through vaccination. The corn and soybean industries would lose over a decade $44 billion and $25 billion, respectively; and economy-wide job losses would top 1.5 million.
“Having a vaccine bank will mitigate the economic harm of an outbreak,” Heimerl said. “Pork producers thank the Senate agriculture committee, Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow for their efforts on this very important issue for livestock agriculture.”
In late April, 15 senators, led by John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., urged Roberts and Stabenow to include FMD language in the Senate Farm Bill, saying in a letter that a vaccine bank “would help to adequately address risks to animal health, livestock export markets, and industry economic stability.”