LANSING — The spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) is forcing the National Pork Producer’s Council to cancel the World Pork Expo, one of the industry’s largest events.
According to a statement Thursday, the council is using the cancellation as “a preventive measure against a negligible risk of African Swine Fever.”
“While an evaluation by veterinarians and other third-party experts concluded negligible risk associated with holding the event, we have decided to exercise extreme caution,” David Herring, NPPC president and a producer from Lillington, N. C., said in a statement. “The health of the U.S. swine herd is paramount; the livelihoods of our producers depend on it. Prevention is our only defense against ASF and NPPC will continue to do all it can to prevent its spread to the United States.”
Held June 2-8 in Des Moines, Iowa, the World Pork Expo will only showcase a live hog show this year.
According to a statement, the event draws about 20,000 visitors each year.
“Our farmers are highly export-dependent,” Herring stated. “An ASF outbreak would immediately close our export markets at a time when we are already facing serious trade headwinds. The retaliatory tariffs we currently face in some of our largest export markets due to trade disputes are among the factors that prompted a conservative decision regarding World Pork Expo. U.S. pork producers are already operating in very challenging financial conditions.”
ASF is a viral disease of pigs that can cause fever, internal bleeding and increased death rates. As of now, the disease does not affect humans. However, in countries like China, Taiwan and Japan, the disease is spreading rapidly, and there’s currently no cure, said Ernie Birchmeier, dairy and livestock specialist for the Michigan Farm Bureau.
“Protecting the health of our nation’s swine herd is of utmost importance,” Birchmeier said. “I applaud this decision. Exports are critical to our nation's pork producers, and we need to do everything we can to keep our swine herd free of this terrible disease.”
Recently, more than 100 pork producers traveled to Washington, D.C., to ask Congress to appropriate funding for new U.S. Customs and Border Protection ag inspectors.
Their mission: to keep ASF out of the country.
As an industry, pork producers market about 26 billion pounds of protein to consumers with annual sales at roughly $20 billion.
“Ag experts estimate China has lost anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent of its supply of swine because of ASF,” Birchmeier said. “This move by the National Pork Producer’s Council has been done out of a cautionary measure. This is one of the largest events in the world, and the council doesn’t want to put our pork at risk. That’s a very good move.
“It’s imperative that we keep our swine healthy.”