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022118-apfile-iowa-hogs

2,400 pigs fill a concentrated animal feeding operation Feb. 21, 2018, near Elma.

Reprinted from the Fort Dodge Messenger April 11.

Agriculture carries with it inherent risk. Any farmer can tell you that.

But the risk, no matter how tiny, that African swine fever could make its way into the United States is one no one wants to take.

Therefore, the National Pork Producers Council’s decision last week to cancel its 2019 World Pork Expo is both necessary and bold.

It is necessary because the damage to U.S. agriculture, should ASF be introduced here, could likely bring not only American pork production, but agriculture in general, to its knees.

Just look at the staggering loss projections estimated through studies led by Dr. Dermot Hayes, an Iowa State University economist, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development Food and Agriculture Policy Research Institute:

  • $8 billion: The estimated amount the United States would lose in pork commodity revenue in the first year of an ASF outbreak.
  • $4 billion: The estimated amount the United States would lose in corn commodity revenue in the first year of an ASF outbreak.
  • $1.5 billion: The estimated amount the United States would lose in soybean commodity revenue in the first year of an ASF outbreak.

The annual World Pork Expo is the largest pork industry-specific trade show in the world. It brings together pork producers and other industry professionals.

“We have 20,000 people over three days gathering at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines for the World Pork Expo and many of those folks are international visitors and some would be coming from regions of the world where African swine fever is present,” according to Jim Monroe, NPPC’s senior communications director.

ASF continues to spread in China and other parts of Asia. It is a swine-only disease. It brings no food safety or human health risk.

“We are a producer-led organization. The decision was made by our board of directors, which is principally made up of U.S. pork producers,” he said. “They made the decision out of an extreme abundance of caution. The U.S. swine herd and livelihood of our producers is NPPC’s top concerns.”

Gregg Hora, a Webster County pork producer from Fort Dodge and past president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, put it another way: “Vendors that come into the World Pork Expo are going to be extremely disappointed. However, if we had African swine fever on the shores of the United States, we would lose 25 percent of our market overnight because the borders would be shut down. It would have a tremendous negative affect on, not just pig farmers, but on so many other sectors of the U.S. economy.”

The World Pork Expo was going to be held June 5-7 on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines.

Although the NPPC said it feels the risk of ASF entering the United States through the World Pork Expo is negligible, it acknowledged that even a low risk is a risk not worth taking.

“Because our No. 1 concern is swine health and our farmers, the board decided to make the decision because we can’t say the risk is zero. And because we can’t, we decided to be conservative and make this call,” Monroe said.

And, so, though multiple vendors and countless others stood to gain monetarily from this key event staged every year in Iowa, the NPPC stepped up with a bold decision that we applaud: Put U.S. agriculture first.

There was simply too much at risk to choose otherwise.

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