Continued investment in foreign animal disease prevention critical to the livestock sector

Stakeholders in the livestock industry are urging members of Congress to protect funding for animal disease prevention.  Referred to as the 3-legged stool, livestock producers want to ensure the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank, the National Animal Disease Preparedness Response program, and the National Animal Health Network are fully funded. 

During his testimony before the House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry on Wednesday, Todd Wilkinson, a South Dakota rancher, and president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says an outbreak of a disease like Foot and Mouth Disease would be catastrophic to the beef industry. “I don’t know if everybody’s aware of what happens if we get an outbreak in the United States,” he says. “First thing that’s going to happen is there’s no movement of cattle for 72 hours. Everything goes to full stop. You think we had an issue with the plant fire in at Holcomb? Magnify it hundreds of times over.”

And, he says, an outbreak would bring exports to a halt.  “All of our trade partners are going to immediately shut us off,” he says. “We’re going to lose China. We’re going to lose Korea. We’re going to lose Japan. Just Ding, Ding, Ding. You know BSE is going to be a cakewalk compared to what’s going to happen with a foot and mouth outbreak. It’s going to spread north to south and east to west in a matter of days. We have to be prepared.”

Minnesota turkey grower and vice chairman of the National Turkey Federation John Zimmerman says the industry needs to be prepared for these outbreaks before they happen.  “We’ve been through this,” he says. “The last thing I want to have happen is for my colleagues over here to have to go through what we’ve been through. You know how devastating this outbreak has been for the poultry industry, but if we were to get foot and mouth or African swine fever at the same time as a high path outbreak? I don’t know what would happen.” 

Missouri pork producer and president of the National Pork Producers Council Scott Hays says because there is no viable vaccination for African swine fever, prevention is key. “It’s critical that we have the funding for these programs,” he says.  “It’s critical for the Beagle Brigade, for the Vaccine Bank for all of these programs so that we’re prepared.”

Wilkinson says investing in disease prevention and preparedness ensures the long-term success of the livestock industry and plays a crucial role in food security. 

The full hearing can be viewed HERE.

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