Sometimes, foreign animal disease (FAD) preparedness feels like lots of talk with little to show for it.

That’s understandable. We’re working to maintain our FAD-free environment – not a lot of opportunities for big party celebrations even when we’re successful. And we’re preparing for the worst but hoping every day that we never have to put those plans into action.

Even when it doesn’t feel like it, great progress in prevention and preparedness is happening – and pork producers continue to be at the center of these efforts that ultimately impact the long-term viability of our industry.

Here are a few highlights of advancements and how pork producers can help:

NBAF Advancing Protection and Prevention Against FADs

Recently, I had the opportunity to bring board members on a tour of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kansas. The state-of-the-art facility is a national asset to protect the nation’s agriculture, producers and citizens against the threat and potential impact of serious animal diseases.

Completed in 2022, the facility fulfills the mission needs of The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and incorporates best practices used in other animal and zoonotic pathogen laboratory facilities in the United States and abroad. The facility has biosafety level-2 and -3 laboratories and is the first facility in the U.S. with biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) containment capable of housing large livestock.

NBAF will be the new home for FAD diagnostics and training. The Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL) at Plum Island will transfer their science to NBAF. Through this facility, USDA scientists can safely study and develop vaccines and diagnostics for a variety of high-consequence animal pathogens. The development of vaccines and countermeasures as well as the early detection of diseases are imperative in FAD prep and prevention.

USDA-APHIS Marks Up the Red Book

USDA recently released the updated July 2023 version of the ASF Response Plan – also known as The Red Book. This resource provides current information on African Swine Fever (ASF) and its relevance to the U.S. The primary purpose of the plan is to provide guidance for responding to an animal health emergency caused by ASF in the U.S.

FAD prevention and preparedness continues to be one of the highest priorities for National Pork Board (NPB) and next steps involve aligning state programs with the revised Red Book. NPB is partnering with state pork associations to help them identify producer needs, knowledge gaps and the necessary resources to prepare for an FAD outbreak at the local level.

While NPB will continue to partner with USDA and other stakeholders to incorporate science-based tools and data into the national prevention and response strategies, every producer has a responsibility to do their part on-farm.

Beagle Brigade Keeps Travelers Honest

Monitoring points of entry is a four-legged protection team of the Agriculture Canines (Ag K9s) that can sniff out pork products brought into the country. These Ag K9s are the first line of defense against FAD. You may see them at airports and seaports, as well as extra screening at Customs in an effort to prevent ASF from entering the U.S. The dogs sniff for only agricultural products such as fruits, vegetables, meat, or other products that could harm U.S. agriculture. These dogs can find up to 30 items in passengers’ bags per DAY.

Ag K9 sniffing passenger’s bag while passing through security.

Producers’ Role: Movements and Mindfulness

U.S. pig farmers have a lot at stake when it comes to the health of their livestock, including a long history of implementing biosecurity measures to protect animals. These measures, as well as technological advances, help monitor and maintain pig health through partnerships with veterinarians and government animal health officials.

The agriculture industry has a vested interest in human and animal health, and pig farms specifically, have very strict biosecurity protocols in place to protect the health and safety of food animals and the communities where they are raised. Producers recognize the interconnectedness of people, animals and their shared environment.

After all…healthy animals, healthy people, healthy planet.

The National Pork Board’s foreign animal disease prevention, preparedness and response strategies have all been shaped by producer input. Their Pork Checkoff funds have enhanced the science and technology behind the tools used to locate a disease control zone, stop the spread and eradicate the disease with limited consequences.