Vilsack: USDA Aid Not Geared for PED Virus — DTN

    Congress would have to expand its portfolio of livestock disaster programs to compensate pork producers for pig losses from the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday.

    Vilsack, talking to agriculture reporters, said PED reflects the ability of a disease carried by global trade to sweep through the country and wreak havoc on an industry. The disease has been found in hog herds in at least 26 states.

    “It’s cost us about 5 million piglets in this country, a growing number,” Vilsack said.

    USDA is focused on making sure the department and industry have the ability to quickly respond to contain and mitigate PED. Vilsack said the industry is working on best practices for producers to identify and fight PED if the disease infects a producer’s herd.

    The secretary noted that USDA’s suite of livestock disaster programs are not set up to help producers hit with a livestock disease such as PED. The Livestock Indemnity Program is designed more for livestock deaths from a weather disaster. Other programs, such as the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, & Farm-Raised Fish (ELAP) Program, help in niche circumstances and its funding, $20 million, isn’t large enough to help with such a widespread disease, Vilsack said.

    “If you were to suggest that is a source of compensation, it would have to be 10 times the size to deal with the losses that have occurred,” Vilsack said. “Congress may want to take a look at the ELAP program and decide. They knew about this issue when they chose to do the farm bill. They chose to stick at $20 million. They may want to rethink that if they want to reopen the opportunity.”

    Opening up livestock disaster aid to cope with diseases could become costly, though. “There are other disease issues that could crop up and that could become quite a costly thing.”

    Vilsack said there could be an opportunity for USDA to work with livestock groups on these emerging diseases that stem from growing global trade.

    “There are risks obviously and you have to mitigate the risks; you have to reduce the risks to an acceptable level,” he said.

    USDA is turning samples of the virus over to outside research groups to figure out what kind of vaccine could be created.

    “This is an issue that obviously has been prevalent in Europe and in China before it was found in the U.S. and it’s a concern,” Vilsack said.

    China has now put a ban on live imports of hogs from the U.S. until a testing regimen has been agreed upon by the U.S. and China.

    The secretary made his comments on PED after reiterating that USDA is geared to open its sign-up for livestock disaster assistance on April 15. Those program sign-ups would largely affect cattle producers who faced drought or storms since 2012.

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