The U.S. livestock industry has been foot-and-mouth diseases (FMD) free since 1929, but the threat of the disease reentering the country remains present. Trade relationships with countries that are not FMD free do not sit well with most ranchers and the Government Accountability Office says that the U.S. “may not have a sufficient supply of FDM vaccine to control more than a small outbreak, become of limited resources to obtain vaccine.”
In October, the cattle industry expressed concern over a FMD outbreak in Namibia, shortly after the African nation was approved to export beef to the U.S. The situation does not seem to be improving as another occurrence of FMD in Namibia has been reported.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s (NCBA) Senior Director of International Trade and Market Access, Kent Bacus issued the following statement in response to those reports:
“The unfortunate and continued presence of FMD outbreaks in Namibia is a serious concern for U.S. cattle producers. While the latest outbreak occurred in the buffer zone and north of the cordon fence, this is the second occurrence of FMD in a matter of months. As we stated in October 2020, FMD is a grave and persistent threat to the U.S cattle industry and warrants every available caution and protection to ensure that the problems plaguing cattle production in other parts of the world do not reach our shores.”
“While NCBA supports regionalization as a tool to protect against the spread of disease while facilitating science-based trade, NCBA encourages USDA to remain vigilant in ensuring all preventative measures are in place to protect the U.S. cattle industry from exposure.”
Bacus went on to explain, “In regard to FMD, Namibia is divided into two zones. The northern zone, where FMD continues to occur and is not approved for export to the United States, and the southern zone—an area that is free of FMD and is designated as safe for export. Namibia has extensive measures in place, including a cordon fence and a buffer zone to prevent the spread of FMD from the northern zone to the southern zone.”
“NCBA supports research to develop protocols and determine the economic impact of regionalization of states or an area to establish risk avoidance for animal diseases,” Bacus concludes. “With that said, FMD is a highly contagious disease that would devastate the U.S. cattle industry and NCBA will continue to support USDA’s efforts to prevent our herd from exposure.”
Need for FMD Vaccine in the U.S.
The 2018 Farm Bill included more funding for USDA’s animal health and disease preparedness programs, such as money for an expanded animal vaccine bank for FMD.
On July 14, 2020, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) published in the Federal Register a notice and request for information on a petition submitted by Zoetis, Inc., a U.S. vaccine manufacturer, seeking approval to manufacture within the continental United States a vaccine produced using a leaderless strain of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) virus. A leaderless virus lacks part of the genetic code (the leader) critical for determining virulence in a host.
The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association commented on the petition to manufacture FMD vaccines in the U.S. with Animal Health and ID Chairman Dwight Keller saying, “If our nation’s leaders are going to continue to ignore the risks associated with maintaining trade relationships with countries at known risk of FMD – such as Namibia and Argentina – then, it is imperative that we provide a pathway for the advancement of U.S. vaccine technologies. USCA recognizes the enormity of this decision and the devastating, lasting effects a FMD outbreak would have on the livestock industry within the mainland U.S. and around the globe.”
“However, we cannot be reliant on foreign entities for the development and manufacture of a safe, abundant vaccine supply,” Keller says. “Instead, we support providing the opportunity for American ingenuity in producing and maintaining a vaccine supply capable of protecting the health of the domestic cattle herd in the event of a FMD outbreak.”
Northern Ag Network/USCA/NCBA