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Pork industry enters spotlight while issues loom

posted on June 6, 2014

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus, or PED, is having a significant impact on the U.S. pork industry.

According to the Agriculture Department, PED is common in Asia and the virus does NOT pose a threat to human health. 

Nevertheless, PED has killed 7 million U.S. piglets over the past year and the number of market-ready hogs could decline by more than 10 percent this summer.    

At the world’s largest pork-specific trade show this week, USDA announced updated reporting protocols and earmarked millions of dollars in new funding to fight the disease. 

Pork industry enters spotlight while issues loom

Hog producers, dealing with both great market prices and a disease with no known cure, took center stage at the Iowa State Fairgrounds this week for the World Pork Expo.

The annual celebration of food, policy and product attracts visitors from around the world to the state that’s the largest producer of pork in the world.

Sec. Tom Vilsack/USDA: “We're looking at an increase of 150-200 operations a week. So this is obviously an expanding issue."

Nearly every conversation though, came back to a lethal disease besieging the industry; the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus or PED.

Late this week, USDA chief Tom Vilsack announced $26 million in funding to help combat the diseases of PEDv and deltacoronvavirus.

Sec. Tom Vilsack/USDA "We recognize it is important to focus on creating a better understanding of these virus, a better understanding of how they came into this country, a better understanding on how to deal with them once they are here, and ultimately how to deal with the eradication and elimination of them."

Pork producers say it’s an interesting time for the industry, as record high prices offer some consolation for losses to PED.

Dale Norton/National Pork Board president: “For some people, it’s been a positive impact on price because of supply has diminished. For those producers that had no pigs contracted and didn't get hit with PED, they are doing very well.”

The export market has been especially good for U.S. pork producers. Normally, the old saying goes the cure prices is high prices, but a noted economist says that may not be the case this time.  

Steve Meyer/Paragon Economics: “This one is a little different. It is a supply shock and a productivity shock and at some point we have to make a decision are we going to be able to solve the productivity problem, or do we have to overcome it with more production capacity."


Tags: animal health economy food safety Iowa PEDv Porcine Epidemis Diarrhea Virus Steve Meyer Tom Vilsack USDA World Pork Expo


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