The National Pork Producers Council's (NPPC) board of directors has announced its decision to cancel World Pork Expo 2019 out of an abundance of caution as African swine fever (ASF) continues to spread in China and other parts of Asia. The World Pork Expo, held each June at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, hosts approximately 20,000 visitors over three days, including individuals and exhibitors from ASF-positive regions. ASF affects only pigs and presents no human health or food safety risks. There is currently no vaccine to treat the swine disease.
"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," said David Herring, NPPC president and a producer from Lillington, N.C. "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."
The National Swine Registry, Certified Pedigree Swine and American Berkshire Assn. said in a statement following the announcement that the live hog show portion of World Pork Expo will still be held on June 2-8, 2019.
“As soon as details are confirmed, membership will be informed through official communication channels. We appreciate everyone's patience and understanding as the organizations work collaboratively to develop solutions,” the groups stated.
The decision to cancel this year's World Pork Expo comes as more than 100 U.S. pork producers gather in Washington, D.C., this week to meet with their members of Congress during NPPC's Legislative Action Conference. To augment the U.S. Department of Agriculture's efforts to protect the U.S. from ASF and other animal diseases, U.S. pork producers are asking Congress to appropriate funding for 600 new U.S. Customs & Border Protection agriculture inspectors to further strengthen defenses against ASF.
"Our farmers are highly export dependent," Herring said. "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."
Herring added, "The widespread presence of African swine fever in China's swine herd, the world's largest by far, takes the threat of this swine disease to an entirely new level. We ask all producers, travelers and the general public to recognize the heightened risk since the first outbreak was reported in China last year and to heed biosecurity protocols in support of U.S. agriculture.
ASF is a viral disease that causes high mortality in domesticated and wild pigs. It spreads through close contact with infected animals or their excretions or through feeding uncooked contaminated meat to susceptible pigs. ASF affects only pigs and presents no human health or food safety risks.
Hosted by NPPC since 1987, the World Pork Expo is the world's largest pork industry-specific trade show in the world. It brings together pork producers and other industry professionals from around the world for three days of education, innovation and networking.
U.S. pork producers today provide 26 billion lb. of safe, wholesome and nutritious meat protein to consumers worldwide. With annual sales of more than $20 billion, U.S. pork production generates an estimated $23 billion of personal income and $39 billion of gross national product and supports more than 500,000 jobs across the U.S.