Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) caught the U.S. pork industry by surprise. Both its virulence and widespread consequences devastated the U.S. swine herd as well as producers’ livelihoods and damaged related industries. In response to this transboundary, emerging swine disease, the Swine Health Information Center (SHIC) was launched in July 2015 by the National Pork Board (NPB). Funded by a one-time Checkoff investment of $15 million in supplemental funds, SHIC had an original life span of five years, however, this was extended by NPB vote to July 2022 using existing SHIC funds. A newly released review of SHIC’s activities since inception through March 2021 captures the return on investment (ROI) for U.S pork producers. SHIC attributes its nimble structure, unique responsibilities, and independence to its ability to achieve several deliverables.
SHIC’s responsibilities include monitoring and analyzing emerging disease issues and research, monitoring non-program swine diseases, working collaboratively with other industry organizations, and filling gaps in swine disease prevention, preparedness, and response.
“In the very short time we’ve been in existence, we have come to play such a vital role in helping defend the health of our industry,” said Daryl Olsen, DVM, AMVC, SHIC board chair. “I recommend people read the 2020 Progress Report and evaluate our performance. After you’ve read it, you’re going to understand that since receiving initial funding from the National Pork Board, we have filled a void and been very successful. We’re committed to protecting the U.S. pig population,”
Following launch in July 2015, SHIC quickly began providing value to the U.S. pork industry by becoming a conduit that balanced practicality with targeted response to disease outbreak prevention, preparedness, and response. This SHIC-led balance between a more rigid preparedness and response structure and grassroots preparedness and response fulfills the Center’s mission to safeguard U.S. swine herd health and serves U.S. pork producers well.
“The importance of coordinated global disease monitoring is imperative in the world today; we see diseases spread easily across political borders, and across countries and oceans. Utilizing experts in many areas, SHIC analyzes the monitoring efforts, and directs funding and efforts into research. The thoughtful process that has been implemented has provided U.S. swine farmers, veterinarians and associated industries with up to date and relevant information. This process has also allowed SHIC to quickly pivot to timely issues with producer oversight,” stated Beth S. Thompson, JD, DVM, Minnesota State Veterinarian, Minnesota Board of Animal Health, SHIC working group member.
SHIC continues to maintain an intentionally responsive structure, which enables it to take quick action on emerging issues and have clear accountability for results. SHIC collaborates closely with other industry organizations; each has unique priorities, yet together the same over-arching mission to advance the pork industry. Collaboration allows for maximizing resources, time, and outcomes without duplication nor territorialism because responsibilities are shared.
“SHIC and Dr. Paul Sundberg stepped up to plug an important gap in our swine health defenses by providing a fast-moving early warning+response system for emerging and transboundary diseases. We need them now more than ever!” said Dr. Jeff Zimmerman, Iowa State University.
In fulfilling the Center’s responsibilities, maximizing the financial resources available is essential. Stretching the initial investment by partnering with other agencies, keeping overhead as low as possible, and seeking additional resources means SHIC is able to deliver consistent, quality results while maintaining sufficient funds to extend the original five-year span by two additional years.
“SHIC is a wonderful invention. They take a threat and educate us on it, so it becomes a non-threat,” said Russ Nugent, PhD, Dogwood Ag Services, LLC, SHIC board and working group member. “SHIC has been on the cutting edge of several situations I would consider a homerun. And it’s a great value. There’s not a lot of huge overhead or ridiculous amount of expenses yet activities on so many fronts, contributing to the health of our swine industry tremendously.”
SHIC has developed several assets for the U.S. swine industry, funded extensive research, and contributed countless deliverables as it fulfills its mission which is, “…to protect and enhance the health of the United States swine herd through coordinated global disease monitoring, targeted research investments that minimize the impact of future disease threats, and analysis of swine health data.”
Information sharing activities include outreach with producers, veterinarians, academicians, researchers, and industry stakeholders. Tools used for information sharing include SHIC’s website, newsletter, podcast, webinars, media outreach, as well as article preparation for partners.
“The U.S. pork industry has undergone monumental changes in all aspects of producing bacon, if you will, in the last 30 years. The most pronounced, which has created great opportunity, is feeding the world via export markets, with the U.S. going from being a 7% importer in 1990 to now a net exporter north of one in four pigs we raise,” said Jim Pillen, Pillen Family Farms/DNA Genetics.
This growth, Pillen added, creates unprecedented risk for the U.S. industry. “We have to ship it as we can’t eat it all. Investing our life and all we have into this industry, our family is appreciative of the work of SHIC to help create awareness and bring the best together with science to protect us from FAD entry. A great example is SHIC’s recent work in Vietnam with ASF. Learn and help where the disease is.”
The full review can be accessed here.