In an achievement the USDA described as a major step for science and agriculture, scientists at the Agricultural Research Service have developed a vaccine candidate that protects hogs from the deadly African swine fever.
Disease experts confirmed a case of African swine fever in Haiti, the second known case in the Western hemisphere in two months and a potential risk to U.S. hog farmers. African swine fever is harmless to humans but has a high mortality rate among hogs; it wiped out nearly half of China's hogs in 2018 and 2019.
In a step to protect U.S. swine and pork exports, the USDA said on Thursday that it will establish a "foreign animal disease protection zone" in two Caribbean territories, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. African swine fever was confirmed a month ago in the Dominican Republic.
The USDA will move quickly to eradicate the African swine fever if the viral disease is discovered in the United States, said Agriculture Undersecretary Greg Ibach at the National Pork Industry Forum in Kansas City. The USDA would order a 72-hour nationwide "standstill" of hog shipments, as a step to prevent spread of the virus, and it would kill all infected and exposed hogs, potentially thousands of animals or more.
Researchers have identified a promising candidate for an African swine fever vaccine but the United States remains two to five years away from having a large supply, said Agriculture Undersecretary Greg Ibach. Speakers at the USDA's annual Ag Outlook Forum said China, hit by an ASF epidemic, would struggle to rebuild hog herds in the near term.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said he believes China will meet the goals of the "phase one" trade agreement, although the USDA's new estimate of sales — $14 billion this fiscal year — is only one-third of the target. "We believe those numbers will be surpassed," Perdue said Thursday at the USDA's annual Ag Outlook Forum.
Poultry farmers could register $1 billion a year in sales to China now that Beijing has removed its “unwarranted ban on U.S. poultry and poultry products,” said U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer on Thursday. Industry groups see the potential to double that total.
World meat production will decline for the first time in two decades because of the devastating epidemic of African swine fever in China, the world’s largest pork producer, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization on Thursday.
Leaders of the National Pork Producers Council appealed to China to remove its 60 percent tariff on imports of U.S. pork so it can bring down the soaring price of pork for Chinese consumers.
Exporters reported the sale of 10,200 tonnes of U.S. pork to China during the week ending Aug. 8, the same period that China said it was shutting off purchases of American ag exports.
The largest U.S. farm group urged trade negotiators “to write the next chapter” in Sino-U.S. relations this week by eliminating trade war tariffs that are depressing ag exports, an important part of farm income. On Monday, the USDA reported an uptick in soybean exports to China, but there was no sign of large “goodwill” purchases on the eve of negotiations in Shanghai.
The trade war with China and low commodity prices will combine to slash U.S. farm exports by 4.5 percent this fiscal year, said the USDA on Thursday in a quarterly forecast. Exports of $137 billion would be the smallest since 2016, when exports bottomed out following the collapse of the commodity boom.
The highly contagious African swine fever, rampant in China, has never been found in the United States, but the USDA said on Thursday that it will step up its surveillance efforts against the viral disease, which kills pigs but does not harm people.
The world's leading hog producer, China has culled nearly 40,000 hogs in its attempts to stop African swine fever since the disease, deadly for hogs but no threat to humans, was spotted on its farms last month. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said the disease will almost certainly emerge in other countries in Asia.