The Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) is estimated to have already killed 5 million pigs and top USDA officials say they’re doing all they can to help alleviate the impact as well as search for a vaccine.
During questioning from Rep. Tom Latham (R., Iowa) in a House appropriations subcommittee hearing earlier this week with top USDA research officials, Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Agricultural Research Service administrator, said there is no current effective vaccine for the deadly virus.
For now, one of the things known about the virus is that management practices help mitigate some of the spread. One important component will be to see how to impart immunity on older hogs since it has the worst impact on piglets from zero to three weeks old, she noted.
She added the virus first reared its head in 2013, but said researchers are “making some progress” and she added they’ll “get it figured out.”
In an interview this week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack added, “we are very much working with the industry and working with land grant universities in a variety of different ways.”
Vilsack said beyond identifying best management practices, USDA is making available “whatever is needed for the private sector to begin developing vaccines.”
He said it is known that the virus is fast-spreading “so we want to get on top of the science of this as quickly as we possibly can,” he said.
Vilsack said unfortunately the disaster assistance programs putting into place under the recent farm bill don’t really cover producer losses from PEDv. He said there may be some protection under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP).
“But there’s only $20 million in that pot, so that’s really not a very satisfactory way of dealing with this,” Vilsack added.
The secretary added that the agency will continue to look for ways in which disaster loans or working with Farm Service Agency staff to be as responsive and as sensitive as possible to help aid producers dealing with the deadly virus.