The U.S. hasn’t seen an outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) for 90 years, and those in the agriculture industry want to continue that track record. However, if it does enter the U.S., the agriculture industry wants to take steps now to preserve exports as well as prevent the culling of millions of animals.
Representatives of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), the National Corn Growers Assn. (NCGA) and Iowa State University called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to move as quickly as possible to establish an FMD vaccine bank as called for under the 2018 farm bill.
According to Iowa State University research, an outbreak would result in $128 billion in losses for the beef and pork sectors, $44 billion for corn farmers and $25 billion for soybean farmers as well as losses of more than 1.5 million jobs across U.S. agriculture over 10 years.
Currently, USDA, which has prescribed vaccination for dealing with an FMD outbreak, does not have access to enough vaccine to avoid devastating economic consequences to the U.S. economy, should an outbreak occur.
Dr. James Roth, a professor in the department of veterinary microbiology and preventative medicine at Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, explained that there are only 2.0-2.5 million doses of vaccine, which could handle only the first few weeks of an active FMD outbreak. With seven different serotypes and 65 subtypes, there are 23 different vaccines to cover all of the different potential strains of FMD.
“We need to stockpile multiple different vaccines,” Roth said.
"If the U.S. had a large outbreak of FMD, it may be impossible to control without the rapid availability of adequate supplies of vaccine," Roth noted. "The U.S. vaccine bank is our best insurance policy to respond to an FMD outbreak in the United States. As with most insurance policies, we hope to never use it, but it's paramount that we have fast access to enough vaccine if we ever need it. The funding provided in the 2018 farm bill provides a good start toward building up a more robust FMD vaccine stockpile to help protect American agriculture."
Roth noted that any country that detects FMD cannot export its meat or milk. Efforts to quickly vaccinate and control the potential spread of FMD could allow exports to potentially resume in a matter of months rather than what could be as long as 10 years without any vaccines.
Currently, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) can verify if a country is free of FMD or free of FMD with vaccination.
Dr. Jamie Jonker, vice president for sustainability and scientific affairs at NMPF, said OIE standards do allow for regionalization and departmentalization, so if an FMD outbreak were to occur in the Northeast region, for instance, other regions in the U.S. could be declared FMD free.
NPPC chief veterinarian Liz Wagstrom said pork producers export more than 25% of all U.S. pork produced. Wagstrom said she’s encouraged by USDA’s recent action to begin the process of soliciting proposals for FMD vaccine vendors. It closes in the next few weeks, and Wagstrom said she hopes USDA will continuing moving the process forward.
“It needs to be populated as quickly as possible,” Wagstrom said. “We are extremely anxious to start building a robust vaccine bank.”
The 2018 farm bill provided $150 million in mandatory funding for the vaccine bank over the five-year life of the farm bill. However, the initial request was for $150 million per year.
"The time to build a best-in-class FMD vaccine bank is now," Jonker said. "NMPF has been active in informing our members and the dairy community of the importance of preparation, and a vaccine bank is a crucial element of protection for the entire livestock industry.”
Sarah McKay, NCGA director of market development, said, "Livestock is a very important customer for U.S. corn farmers, and each is crucial to the success of the other. A foreign animal disease outbreak would have an estimated $4 billion a year impact on corn farmers, which would be disastrous on top of current market conditions. In addition, an outbreak may also impact exports of animal ag products. On average, pork exports contribute 28 cents/bu. to the price of corn, so the control of infectious diseases via a vaccine bank is important not only to livestock producers but corn growers as well."