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Protect Your Pigs, Protect the Food Supply

Protect Your Pigs, Protect the Food Supply
By Elizabeth Hines
 
If you’re involved in pig production this year, you have probably heard the buzz about African Swine Fever. If not, welcome to the conversation, it’s time to start getting caught up!
 
Since August 2018, African Swine Fever has been on the radar of the international swine industry, and numerous efforts are being made to keep it from reaching the U.S. This disease does not affect people or other animal species, but it does affect all pigs. Mass infection with this disease would lead to nearly 100% mortality rates in pigs, and tremendous economic losses to agriculture around the country. But all this hype is not limited to African Swine Fever. Rather, this is just a prime example of the threat that foreign animal diseases can have on the security of U.S. agriculture and our nation’s food supply.
 
In recent years, movement has been made to encourage producers and farmers to think about risk management and planning for disaster. What is your plan if a Foreign Animal Disease was found on your farm?
 
The way to answer that question has come in the form of Secure Food Supply planning. There are Secure Supply plans for Milk, Beef, and Eggs. Now, there is a Secure Supply plan for Pork. This plan, aptly named The Secure Pork Supply Plan, is a volunteer program that walks farmers and producers through the steps of building a preventative biosecurity and response plan for your operation. Whether the disaster is a Foreign Animal Disease outbreak or a fire, having a plan to prevent, minimize, and respond to disaster is a great way to manage at least some of the risks faced in agriculture.
 
So why should you participate? Management of Foreign Animal Disease outbreaks falls under the control of state and federal Departments of Agriculture. During an outbreak, these entities will work to minimize further disease spread by restricting movements of pigs and pork products. Movement of pork products is critical to any pig production system. Whether it is a load of live pigs or hams, product movement is the only way to keep business rolling. Participating in the Secure Pork Supply plan will help to meet the expectations of state and federal officials and give pig producers and farmers the highest probability of moving their pigs during a disease outbreak.
 
In addition to disease outbreak response, this plan will assist farmers and producers in critically evaluating pig operations in the face of disease or disaster. The materials for the Secure Pork Supply plan include a series of questions about daily activities on your farm, and how those activities may or may not influence your risk for disease or disaster. Some of the questions include addressing how people move on and off your farm, how do you bring supplies and equipment onto the farm, and management of manure and mortalities. All of these components are important questions that farmers and producers should ask themselves regularly to ensure the health and safety of their pigs.
 
Now that you know why it might be a good idea to participate, maybe next we should see how! To participate, get started with these steps:
  • Get to know the Secure Pork Supply materials on the website Secure Pork Supply. If you don’t have access to the internet, local Penn State Extension Offices have booklets for distribution.
  • Validate your Premises ID. Don’t have one? Get one at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture website or call the PA Department of Agriculture at 717-787-4737
  • Collect all your records, including animal health checks and standard operating procedures.
  • Then begin filling out your plan! Remember that a plan will probably be different for each Premises ID, so be sure to have a plan for each one.
In addition to tackling this on your own, Penn State Extension will be offering Secure Pork Supply planning workshops this fall! We will walk you through the plan, and help you keep it organized. Those who are interested should visit the Secure Pork Planning workshops event site or call your local Penn State Extension office for more details.