The U.S. livestock industry provides millions of U.S. jobs and accounts for nearly 6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Thanks to continued diligence by USDA and the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, we have been able to keep numerous foreign animal diseases outside our borders. NPPC is working hard to ensure that vigilance continues, and that includes quickly moving to establish a Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine bank. HOTH wanted to remind readers of why this vital vaccine bank is needed.
Under the Farm Bill, USDA is authorized to use $150 million over the next five years for an FMD vaccine bank, for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and for state efforts to prepare for any foreign animal disease outbreak. The bill also gives Agriculture Secretary Perdue discretion to dedicate additional funding for this critical initiative.
FMD can infect all cloven-hooved animals, including cattle, pigs and sheep, although it’s important to know it is not a food safety or human health threat. An FMD outbreak would cripple the entire agricultural sector and have long-lasting ramifications for the economic viability of U.S. crop and livestock production. An outbreak would immediately close all export markets to U.S. meat, and according to Iowa State University economists, it would translate into more than $128 billion in losses for the beef and pork sectors, losses of $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.
Earlier this week, representatives of NPPC, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Corn Growers Association and Iowa State University held a press conference with reporters, outlining the critical need for USDA to finalize its FMD vaccine bank. USDA has already taken steps to establish the bank, but more can be done. “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 at the press conference. “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,” she said.
Currently, the U.S. does not have quick-enough access to an FMD vaccine to handle more than a very small, localized outbreak. Since FMD includes 24 different strains circulating in the world, we need to increase both the number of strains we have and the number of doses of each of those strains. While there is a small North American FMD Vaccine Bank that is shared with Mexico and Canada, it is not enough for more than a small outbreak. That’s why an adequate FMD vaccine bank is necessary.
HOTH views the U.S. vaccine bank as the 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. USDA recently published a Sources Sought Notice, to gather information from interested vaccine manufacturers on their ability to supply an FMD vaccine. We need USDA to quickly analyze the submissions and move to contracting for the vaccine. HOTH urges USDA to step on the gas and make sure agriculture is protected in the event of an FMD outbreak.