DES MOINES, Iowa –The annual World Pork Expo has been cancelled this year after an outbreak of African Swine Fever in Asia.
Dave Struthers is a pig farmer in Collins. Typically, he goes to the World Pork Expo at the Iowa State Fairgrounds every year, but he’s glad the National Pork Producer’s Council is shuttering the event.
“I mean look at what’s happened to China. They have lost what we can best estimate is the equivalent of the total United States herd. So, people think there are a lot of pigs in the United States, nothing compared to China. They’ve had as many die from this disease as we have total” said Struthers.
Jim Monroe with the national council says they’ve checked with veterinarians who say holding the event would be low-risk, but they chose to be extra cautious.
“We think that it would be very unlikely that holding the World Pork Expo would be a reason that African Swine Fever would enter the U.S. swine herd, but we can’t say the possibility is zero” said Monroe.
Aside from the deadly consequences to pigs, an outbreak would also shutter U.S. exports. Farmers say that would be a devastating hit to pork producers.
“Anybody that has something that can potentially wipe out their business wants to keep that away. So African Swine Fever could wipe out our business at least for a period of time” said Struthers.
The timing of the decision to cancel is somewhat ironic. Hundreds of pork producers from across the country are in D.C. this week to speak with legislators about issues facing the industry.
“Foreign animal disease prevention and preparedness is at the top of the list. It would have been even without this announcement. One of the things we’re asking congress to do is to support appropriations funding for 600 new agriculture inspectors for customs and border protection” said Monroe.
While humans aren’t able to contract swine fever, it’s believed they can carry it. The disease can also be carried by infected feed, vitamins, or any number of ways. 20,000 people typically come to Des Moines for the three-day event in June from across the world, including from countries where the disease is present.
Unfortunately, the loss of the event also means the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending for local hotels and restaurants.
It’s also something to keep an eye on long-term. Monroe says swine fever could still be an issue overseas by this time next year, though it is too soon to say if next year’s expo would be threatened.