USDA expands protection zone against African swine fever

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Aug. 26 announced its intent to designate Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as a “protection zone,” a World Organization for Animal Health designation that allows the United States to maintain its current animal health status should there be a detection of African swine fever or other foreign animal disease on the island territories, according to the National Pork Producers Council in a news release.

The USDA will work to gain OIE acceptance of this designation to maintain U.S. pork export continuity should Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands have an animal test positive for African swine fever in the future, the NPPC said.

ASF has not been detected in Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, and USDA is committed to keeping it out of both islands and the rest of the U.S. the agency said.

Out of an abundance of caution, APHIS is taking this additional action to further safeguard the U.S. swineherd and protect the interests and livelihoods of U.S. pork producers, it said.

There is no commercial pork trade from Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands to the U.S. mainland.

“We thank (Agriculture) Secretary (Tom) Vilsack for taking this pre-emptive step to preserve the continuity of U.S. pork exports as we continue to work together to prevent the spread of African swine fever to the United States,” said Jen Sorenson, president of the NPPC. “We have significantly bolstered U.S. biosecurity defense against ASF since it began spreading in the Asia-Pacific region nearly three years ago and must re-double our efforts given the recent outbreak in the Dominican Republic.”

“APHIS is confident that its many existing preventive measures and mitigations, along with the additional measures underway and announced today, will protect our livestock industry from ASF and ensure the continued export of pork,” the agency said.

The USDA announced confirmed cases of ASF in the Dominican Republic on July 28. The cases were confirmed as part of an ongoing cooperative surveillance program between the U.S. and the DR, the NPPC said. The USDA, Customs and Border Protection, NPPC and other industry organizations are working together to contain the first outbreak of ASF in the Western hemisphere in approximately 40 years to the DR. Other actions taken include aid to the Dominican Republic, Haiti risk mitigation, enhanced mitigation efforts in Puerto Rico and collaboration with Mexico and Canada to tighten inspections and use biosecurity protocol.

NPPC noted the following measures for U.S. pork producers to take to prevent ASF:

• Use caution when hosting on-farm visitors from an ASF-positive region of the world; follow downtime recommendations from USDA’s Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.

• Review your biosecurity protocols to ensure consistent practice of appropriate safeguards.

• Fill out the Foreign Animal Disease Preparation Checklist and enroll in the Secure Pork Supply program.

• Visit with your feed suppliers to discuss the origin of the feed ingredients they are using in your diets.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].