Top US agriculture official plays down concerns African Swine Fever could come here

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St. Joseph Post

A top United States agriculture official says steps have been taken to keep African Swine Fever from wiping out the American pork industry.

Agriculture Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Greg Ibach, the former Nebraska State Agriculture Director, rejects the notion that it’s not a matter of if, but when the deadly disease shows up in the United States herd.

“Well, we’re very hopeful it’s the ‘if,’ not the ‘when,’” Ibach tells agricultural reporters during a news conference.

“For almost a hundred years now we’ve kept foot and mouth disease out of the United States. We’ve kept classical swine fever out of the United States,” Ibach says. “Both of those have very similar epidemiologies to African Swine Fever. So, we’re hoping that our history and our ability to protect the livestock herd in America for a number of decades will continue to serve us well as we seek to keep African Swine Fever out as well.”

While African Swine Fever first appeared in sub-Saharan Africa, it has spread through China, Mongolia, and Vietnam with Vietnam considering issuing a state of emergency due to its spread there.

Its rapid spread overseas has raised fears it could spread to the United States.

Ibach says his office is basing its decisions not on emotion, but on science.

“The economic consequences of ASF have made a lot of different segments of the industry very concerned and so there have been lots of rumors go around about maybe we should do this or that,” Ibach says. “And so, as we’ve sat down with the industry and analyzed those different concerns, we’ve tried to land on the side where science matters.”

According to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, African Swine Fever is a highly contagious and deadly viral disease affecting both domestic and wild pigs of all ages. ASF is not a threat to human health and cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans. It is not a food safety issue, according to the USDA.

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