Updated 3:30 p.m. April 10
Pork producers and allied industry veterans will be missing their annual trip to Des Moines in 2019. In a move designed to help keep African swine fever out of the country, the National Pork Producers Council has announced cancellation of the 2019 World Pork Expo.
Held each June at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, the event draws about 20,000 visitors over three days, including exhibitors and individuals from countries impacted by ASF. The disease only affects pigs and represents no human health or food safety risks; currently there is no vaccine against the disease.
In a media statement announcing the cancellation, David Herring, NPPC president and North Carolina producer, noted that an evaluation by veterinarians and other third-party experts concluded there was minimal risk of holding the event, but officials decided to “exercise extreme caution. 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 decision to cancel this year’s World Pork Expo comes as more than 100 U.S pork producers gather in Washington this week to meet with their members of Congress during NPPC’s Legislative Action Conference. To augment the USDA’s efforts to protect the United States from ASF and other animal diseases, U.S. pork producers are asking Congress to appropriate funding for 600 new U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspectors to further strengthen our defenses against ASF.
Added Herring: “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.”
He explained that the widespread presence of ASF in China has taken the threat of the disease to a “whole new level.” And added that the organization is asking 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.”
World Pork Expo was last cancelled in 2001 because of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the United Kingdom.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said he supports NPPC’s decision to cancel the expo.
“We are working with USDA APHIS and pork producers to monitor the African Swine Fever outbreak in Asia and parts of Europe. Protecting the health of Iowa’s livestock and our ag-based economy are our top priorities,” Naig said. “We continue to stress the importance of following proper biosecurity protocols on the farm every day to prevent the spread of disease and protect our herds.”