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US Works to Keep ASF Out as it Continues to Spread in China

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African swine fever has destroyed one-fifth of China’s hogs, with more losses likely. However, a top USDA official tells Congress the department’s ready if the disease comes here. It’s bad enough China’s hog losses to African Swine Fever are further hurting demand for U.S. feed grains, but the spread of ASF here could wreak havoc on U.S. agriculture.

USDA Undersecretary Greg Ibach tells House Ag lawmakers, his people are working with Customs and Border Protection to focus on people and cargo from high-risk areas.

“We are training 60 new detector dog teams that help sniff out any illegally imported products, carried by passengers, or in cargo.  We are working to identify high-risk pathways for illegal products, trace the origin and shut down those pathways.  Simply put, we find smuggled items, including meat products, and take enforcement actions to prevent bad actors from continuing to illegally move product into the United States.”

USDA’s APHIS is working with producer groups and veterinarians on biosecurity, alertness to disease symptoms, and response measures. And, if there is a U.S. outbreak, Ibach says.

“We’ll be ready. We have ramped up our diagnostic capabilities at facilities affiliated with the National Animal Health Laboratory Network…we have reviewed our response plans with our state and industry partners, and have tested those plans through exercises.”

And USDA’s working with Canada and Mexico on a coordinated approach to an ASF outbreak. But Ibach warns, “We still believe, we may be as long as eight-years from finding a vaccine that’s effective.”

Until then, Ibach says USDA’s working to tighten biosecurity, both at the border, and at individual operations.