In the event of a foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in the United States, what public official would be in charge? What would happen to farmers in the outbreak area? Where would farmers go for information?
Those questions and others were put to a test Tuesday, June 8 at World Pork Expo in Des Moines, where more than 80 attendees representing production agriculture, law enforcement, media and state and federal governments participated in Pork-Checkoff-sponsored table-top exercise based on a simulated FMD outbreak.
The United States has not had an FMD case since 1929, but recent outbreaks in Japan and elsewhere have brought renewed attention to the need to be vigilant, said Patrick Webb, a veterinarian and director of swine health programs for the Pork Checkoff. Webb said exercises such as the one conducted Tuesday are based on scenarios that require participants to make decisions and to move equipment and animals on a scale model of a small town and surrounding farms.
“We know from experience that each decision the participants make and each movement of resources on the table creates new challenges that must be solved,” Webb said. “We’ve found that it is a very effective way to demonstrate the importance of planning, preparedness and surveillance.”
The Pork Checkoff has conducted the table-top drill for law enforcement, government officials, media members and representatives from agriculture throughout the country.
“I know every time I participate in an FMD drill I realize just how devastating an FMD outbreak would be to me as a pork producer, and to all livestock producers in the U.S.,” said Jim Niewold, a pork producer from Loda, Ill., and chairman of the Pork Checkoff’s Swine Health Committee. “By practicing how we would respond, I feel like we as an industry are better prepared and have plans in place should we ever have FMD in this country. ”
Tim Bierman, a Larrabee, Iowa, pork producer and president of the National Pork Board has participated in a number of the drills. “The Pork Checkoff provided this drill to help all pork producers understand the important role for producers in being prepared and knowing how to respond in the event of a foreign-animal disease outbreak such as FMD,” he said.
The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, technology, swine health, pork safety and environmental management. For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or check the Internet at www.pork.org.