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How COVID Helped U.S. Pork Prepare for a More Secure Pork Supply, ASF

March Hogs and Pigs Report Released-media-1

In one week, Germany has confirmed six cases of African swine fever (ASF) in wild boars. How prepared is the U.S. to handle ASF?

When the U.S. was dealing with the closure of pork processing plants earlier in the year, Mary Kelpinski, CEO of the Michigan Pork Producers Association (MPPA), said that helped the industry prepare for a secure pork supply.

“It pushed us even harder to get our secure pork supply up and running,” she said. “We have been working on it for quite a long time, we have been talking about it, but some of the things that came up through COVID—supply chain disruption, not knowing where to go with our hogs and unfortunately having to euthanize—has helped us along in some of our planning for foreign animal disease.”

Kelpinski and the MPPA are part of a multi-state planning commission to determine the steps if a foreign animal disease comes to the U.S. While planning is important, it’s more important to prevent ASF from making it here.

“That’s really where we need to put a lot of pressure and make sure that we do everything we can to keep it out of the United States and make sure nothing comes in—legally or illegally—that could have African swine fever in it,” she added.

That task has growing increasingly difficult because there’s a shortage of several hundred ag inspectors at U.S. points of entry.

“We’re not traveling like we were, and there’s a tax when you travel internationally that goes to Customs and Border Patrol,” said Kelpinski. “That funding ha not been coming because people aren’t traveling so they’re really short.”

Germany is the largest pork exporting country in the EU. At least 10 countries have banned importing pork from Germany, including China, Japan and South Korea. Kelpinski says that is already having a positive impact on U.S. markets.

“Germany has exported a lot of pork to China, and China is having their own problems with African swine fever,” she said. “The shortfall they’re going to have because Germany isn’t importing pork into their country is probably going to be made up with a lot of U.S. pork.”