USA – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced additional steps to protect the United States from African swine fever (ASF) which is widely spreading internationally.

The strengthened actions aim to protect the country’s swine industry from the disease which has since spread to China.

This follows the protections announced earlier by the agency following the confirmation of a second case of ASF in China.

USDA’s Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Greg Ibach said that the agency will work in coordination with the pork industry to intensify multi-agency efforts toward the prevention of ASF’s entry into the United States.

The agency will work with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to train and add 60 additional beagle teams for a total of 179 teams working at key U.S. commercial, sea, and air ports.

It will also coordinate with CBP on the further expansion of arrival screenings at key U.S. commercial sea and air ports and increase inspections and enforcement of garbage feeding facilities to ensure fed garbage is cooked properly to prevent potential disease spread.

In addition to heightening producer awareness and encourage self-evaluations of on-farm biosecurity procedures, the USDA said it will work to develop accurate and reliable testing procedures to screen for the virus in grains, feeds and additives, and swine oral fluid samples.

This will be supported through collaboration with officials in Canada and Mexico on a coordinated approach to ASF defence, response, and trade maintenance.

“We understand the grave concerns about the ASF situation overseas,” said Ibach. “We are committed to working with the swine industry, our producers, other government agencies, and neighbouring countries to take these additional steps.”

Combating a threat to pork industry

The USDA has said that it will continue high level coordination with the U.S. pork industry leadership to assure unified efforts to combat ASF introduction.

The efforts include a focus on the importation of feed ingredients, a key area of potential high risk of disease transport.

In September, the US pork industry warned that ASF could cost the industry up to US$8 billion in the first year alone, if at all it enters the country.

“Along with our wide range of partner groups, we are working through several different ASF planning and response exercises.

These cover different aspects – from trade implications to policy discussions to the boots-on-the-ground realities of a response.

These will help everyone involved ensure their response plans are ready and identify any preparedness gaps that must be addressed,” read the USDA statement.