The National Pork Producers Council has cancelled the 2019 World Pork Expo out of an “abundance of caution” regarding African swine fever.
Held annually at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, the expo takes place each June and hosts approximately 20,000 visitors.
The Council’s board of directors announced its decision was made “out of an abundance of caution as African swine fever continues to spread in China and other parts of Asia”, but reiterated that the risk of fever being introduced to U.S. herd is “considered negligible”.
African swine fever affects only pigs and presents no human health or food safety risks, but there is currently no vaccine to treat the swine disease.
“It would be billions of dollars in loss,” said Dave Struthers, a pork producer in the state. “What would happen is people who buy pork from the U.S. would immediately stop.”
While it may be just a precaution, the National Pork Producers Council agrees.
“While an evaluation by veterinarians and other third-party experts concluded negligible risk associated with holding the event, we have decided to exercise extreme caution,” said NPPC President David Herring. “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.”
More than 100 U.S pork producers are in Washington D.C. this week to meet with members of Congress during NPPC’s Legislative Action Conference. U.S. pork producers are asking Congress to appropriate funding for 600 new U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture inspectors to further strengthen defenses against African swine fever.
“Our farmers are highly export dependent,” Herring said. “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. U.S. pork producers are already operating in very challenging financial conditions.”
Herring added that the disease being present in China’s swine herd takes the thread of entry into the United States “to an entirely new level”.