USDA updates ASF response plan

In late May, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) updated its African swine fever (ASF) strategic plan and expanded it into a full response as part of ongoing efforts to strengthen response capabilities in the event of an outbreak. The USDA APHIS USDA Response Plan: The Red Book May 2020 elevates preparedness activities in the United States should ASF enter the country. ASF is an animal disease affecting only pigs and with no human health or food safety risks. Among provisions, the response plan provides: a comprehensive feral swine response, an outline of USDA authorities and APHIS guidance specific to an ASF response, specific response actions that will be taken if ASF is detected, updated USDA APHIS National Stop Movement Guidance, and changes to surveillance guidance.

To view the Red Book, visit The agency anticipates there will be updates to the ASF Response Plan as new capabilities and processes become available. The National Pork Producers Council supports USDA’s efforts to ensure ASF isn’t spread to the United States. NPPC continues to work with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which along with USDA, are our first line of defense to prevent ASF. In March, President Donald Trump signed into law legislation that authorized funding for 720 new agricultural inspectors at land, air and sea ports, as well as 600 new agricultural technicians and 60 new canine teams. NPPC is working with CBP to ensure sufficient funding on this effort, and to date has helped the agency receive an additional $19.6 million in the FY2020 budget.

At the recent American Association of Swine Veterinarians annual meeting, veterinarian Clayton Johnson, a partner with Carthage Veterinary Services, Carthage, Illinois, offered five things that producers and veterinarians can keep in mind as the look to prevent ASF from entering the United States or from spreading once it arrives.

  1. Contaminated Pork. “The carcass is the biggest risk of transmission, whether a mortality or processed meat,” Johnson said. “For example, transmission could happen at one of our national parks if a foreign visitor brought in illegal meat products.”
  2. Contaminated Visitors. “Exclusion is always a principle to apply in biosecurity,” Johnson said. “Complete exclusion of visitors from infected countries should be enforced.”

A five-day downtime for foreign visitors is recommended when exclusion isn’t possible or practical. Provide visitors U.S.-sourced clothing and footwear for farm visits and don’t let them bring their items onto the premises.

  1. Contaminated Transport Vehicles: “Remember, there are about 1 million pigs on the road in the U.S. every day,” Johnson said. “That creates a major vulnerability if ASF enters our country.”
  2. Contaminated mortality equipment: “I don’t feel confident that we will find ASF quickly once it enters the country,” Johnson said. “That’s why the first mortalities will spread the disease as normal disposal methods are used.”
  3. Contaminated feed ingredients: “We have good data to guide us with the recent research that’s been done,” Johnson said. “That’s why we want a minimum of four weeks of holding time so we don’t bring in virus from ASF-positive countries.”

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