Pork Checkoff Stays Vigilant as ASF Marks One Year in China

DES MOINES, IOWA – July 25, 2019 – As the one-year anniversary of China’s acknowledgment of ASF in its country’s herds nears (August 3), it’s a good time to evaluate where the U.S. pork industry stands in its ability to deal with this ongoing threat that has now engulfed much of southeast Asia.

“We’re definitely in a better position today to deal with a threat such as African swine fever,” says National Pork Board President David Newman, a producer representing Arkansas. “That said, we can never be too prepared with a devastating disease like this. What I like though is how much our industry has come together over the past 12 months in a spirit of collaboration to get the job done.”

It’s this kind of industry-wide collaboration that Dave Pyburn, the Pork Checkoff’s senior vice president of science and technology, says is the key point that he wants everyone to realize. “It’s always gratifying to see how willing the pork industry is to come together for a common goal. We are so much more effective when we get together to solve issues posed by threats such as ASF.”

Catalyst for Collaboration

For almost a year, the Pork Checkoff has taken a leading role in collaborating with multiple government and industry partners to protect the United States from African swine fever (ASF). Primary partners in this effort include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Pork Producers Council, the North American Meat Institute, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the Swine Health Information Center. When it comes to working on feed biosecurity issues specifically, the American Feed Industry Association has also been essential to the effort.

By combining their resources, these organizations and others have been able to achieve a comprehensive response to ASF that has helped to harden the defenses of the domestic swine industry against this costly foreign animal disease and others like it.

“You can break our industry response to ASF into four main areas,” Pyburn says. “We have research, education, prevention and preparedness, which is where we will continue to focus our combined efforts.”

National Swine Disease Council Takes Bigger Role

As with any ongoing issue facing the pork industry, change and refinement of the approach continues. An example of this is the National Swine Disease Council (NSDC), which was announced last January. Starting soon, this broad-based industry group will take on a larger role in overall coordination of the industry’s efforts in fighting ASF and related disease threats.

The mission statement of the NSDC is to provide recommendations to animal health officials and industry stakeholders to mitigate threats and negative impacts to the U.S. pork industry from diseases of concern. Its objectives are to coordinate industry preparedness and response activities, protect trade and interstate commerce of pigs, pork and pork products and build capacity to rapidly detect diseases of concern and limit the scope of a disease outbreak. Finally, the council will serve as the industry touchpoint and make recommendations for regulatory officials.

Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian with the National Pork Producers Council, says, “The organizations who make up the National Swine Disease Council have much experience in working together, and we will be able to collaborate even more closely moving forward with this approach. In the end, we have to improve disease detection, assessment, containment and eradication.”

2019 and Beyond

In looking ahead, the ASF situation in China and other Asian countries won’t likely get better in the near-term and could be the “new normal” for the foreseeable future. However, Checkoff’s Newman is excited for what he sees as the fruition of long- and short-term investments in disease preparedness here in the United States.

“When you consider how far we’ve come in just the last year and then what’s on the horizon in terms of tools to help every U.S. pig farmer fight threats like ASF, it’s reassuring,” Newman says. “This has happened because we’ve been deliberate in how we’ve approached this challenge by breaking down silos to find solutions.”

Pyburn also points to upcoming technology innovations that the Checkoff continues to develop. This includes the software interface that will enhance the current Secure Pork Supply program’s ability to protect business continuity during an outbreak of ASF or other disease challenges.

“The Pork Checkoff will continue to focus on creating useful tools and delivering relevant information to producers and the entire pork chain in the year ahead,” Pyburn says. “It’s why we’re, here and it’s what we’re determined to do.”

ASF Continues in Six Asian Countries

Over the past year, African swine fever (ASF) has officially claimed territory in six nations in Asia. Most notably is China, the world’s pork powerhouse, where some estimate say nearly half of the nation’s sow herd may be gone due to ASF. According to official statistics by the Food and Agriculture Organization, you can also find ASF in Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, North Korea and Vietnam.


Since its first report on Jan., 15, 2019, 11 outbreaks in six provinces and in Ulaanbaatar have been reported, involving 105 farms/households. More than 3,115 pigs, more than 10% of the total pig population in Mongolia, have died/been destroyed due to the ASF outbreaks.

North Korea

The Ministry of Agriculture confirmed the occurrence of the first ASF outbreak in Chagang-Do on May 23, 2019.


Since the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs confirmed its first ASF outbreak in Liaoning Province on Aug. 3, 2018, 149 ASF outbreaks have been detected in 32 provinces/autonomous regions/municipalities/special administrative regions. More than 1,160,000 pigs have been culled in an effort to halt further spread.


Since the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development confirmed its first ASF outbreak on Feb. 19, 2019, a total of 62 provinces/cities reported outbreaks, more than 3,000,000 pigs have been culled [reference].


The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry confirmed its first ASF outbreak in Toumlan District, Salavane province on June  20, 2019. New outbreaks occurred in Savannakhet Province were reported on July 17 [reference].


Since the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries confirmed the first ASF outbreak in Ratanakiri province on April 2, 2019, ASF outbreaks were detected in five provinces. New outbreaks occurred in Kandal province were reported on July 16, 2019. [reference].

ASF Strikes Again in Bulgaria

According to a report by Reuters on July 20, Bulgaria has reported an outbreak of African swine fever at a breeding farm for pigs near the Danube city of Ruse in the north east of the Balkan country.

According to a spokesperson for the Bulgarian food safety authority, all 17,000 pigs on the affected farm will be culled. In addition, all home-raised pigs in a 3-kilometer quarantine zone, established around the farm in the village of Nikolovo, might also be culled.

Bulgaria has stepped up measures to prevent the spread of deadly African swine fever after reporting more than 30 cases of the disease in several regions, including border provinces with Romania, in July.

How Has the ASF Threat Changed Biosecurity?

“Even though African swine fever (ASF) is not now nor ever has been in the United States, the expanded global threat demands razor sharp attention,” says the Pork Checkoff’s Lisa Becton, DVM, director of swine health information and research. “On the plus side, steps that we currently employ to prevent other diseases will be important to protect against ASF.”

Of course, there are some additional steps that producers are starting to put in place. For example, no international visitors — it’s best not to allow any international visitors onsite, says Derald Holtkamp, DVM, Iowa State University. As for U.S. personnel who have visited ASF-affected countries, five to seven days of downtime is a must.

“It’s the showers during that time that are important, because we know the ASF virus survives a long time,” he says. “Also, no shoes or clothing from ASF-affected countries, even items not worn on pig farms, can come onto a U.S. farm.”

Add a question to the visitors’ log specific to travel in ASF-affected countries for anyone entering a U.S. farm.

  • No pork foodstuffs on the farm – “ASF is different disease-wise; it survives in processed and dried pork for a long time,” Holtkamp notes. “Seriously consider catering lunches as an employee benefit and as a biosecurity measure. It gives you control.”
  • Increased insect control – Although soft ticks (Ornithodoros) associated with ASF transmission are not a concern domestically, biting flies and ticks can serve as a mechanical vector. “We need to up our game on insect, pest and rodent control,” Holtkamp says.
  • Increased farm security – Consider perimeter fencing and security cameras to monitor activity. At the very least have gates, that someone can’t simply drive around and doors with key-pad access, Holtkamp says.

Becton also advises building your farm FAD awareness:

  • Know the clinical signs of ASF and other foreign animal diseases (FADs) and how to determine if something is not right. (Available at pork.org/FAD.)
  • Pre-identify a herd veterinarian to contact and assist if you suspect clinical signs of an FAD.
  • Post important contact information by the farm phone, including names of herd, state and USDA veterinarians, in case of an animal health event.

“Have a current premises ID number for the site where the pigs are located — not at a main office or house,” Becton emphasizes. “Use that PIN now for all animal movements and lab submissions and sign up for the Secure Pork Supply plan at securepork.org.”

Belgium’s ASF Status Brighter; All Pigs in Captivity Declared ASF-Free

In what was arguably a huge blow to western Europe’s sense of security from African swine fever (ASF), Belgium announced it had a positive case in its wild boar population on Sept. 13, 2018.

Despite having its first case of ASF since 1985, the Belgians mounted a rapid response from government and industry officials, including the nation’s military. Today, ASF appears to be under control in the wild pig population with no new cases being reported. Further, the nation’s chief veterinary officer, Jean-Francois Heymans, has declared the country’s domestic and wild pigs in captivity are free of ASF, a declaration acknowledged by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Today’s positive ASF outlook for Belgium may be in part to the government’s decision last October to euthanize all domestic swine in the infected zone. The area farmers were compensated for the lost pigs by the Sanitary Fund (Belgian) and European funds, reserved for animal disease outbreaks. Other measures, such as active and passive surveillance, fencing, special hunting seasons and wild boar eradication efforts all played a role in limiting ASF’s spread in Belgium and into other western European countries.

USDA Plans Full-Function FAD Exercise in September

In an ongoing effort to prepare the pork industry for a potential foreign animal disease (FAD), the USDA is working on a full-function exercise on foreign animal disease (FAD) that will be conducted the week of September 23. The exercise will focus on a fictional outbreak of African swine fever and the subsequent response by federal and state authorities along with the rest of the pork industry.

The overall purpose of this exercise is to better prepare the U.S. pork industry and its stakeholders in the event of an actual FAD outbreak. Per the USDA’s Veterinary Services overview, this functional exercise will focus on exercising plans, policies, procedures, and staff members involved in management, direction, command, and control functions.

During the exercise, participants will validate and evaluate capabilities, multiple functions/sub-functions, or interdependent groups of functions; they will also respond to an exercise scenario with event updates in a realistic, real-time environment. In addition, participants will assess the adequacy of response plans and resources. The exercise simulates deployment of resources and personnel, involves rapid problem solving, creates a highly stressful environment and involves multiple functions.

“Everything in this type of exercise is done for a reason,” says Dave Pyburn, DVM, senior vice president of the National Pork Board’s science and technology department. “We’re trying to create a realistic scenario of a confirmed foreign animal disease in this country to see how each stakeholder reacts and to find the gaps that need more work. It’s about finding ways to improve to help protection our nation’s swine herd.”

To find out if your state is participating in this exercise, contact your state pork association office.

Checkoff Prepared for ASF Consumer Outreach

For the sake of being prepared, the Pork Checkoff communications team has an array of materials and tools ready to deploy aimed at informing and reassuring U.S. consumers if a foreign animal disease becomes reality here.

“We’re currently at a yellow-level, elevated threat,” says Cindy Cunningham, assistant vice-president of communications for the Pork Checkoff. “However, we want to be prepared for a red-level threat, which would happen if ASF is ever confirmed in the U.S. That’s why we’ve created a set of tools that we could immediately use to help ensure consumer confidence in our nation’s pork supply.”

The main resources that are at-the-ready, include an ad campaign for digital, social media and trade media; English and Spanish assets; a consumer website (www.factsaboutpork.com); social media content; videos; third-party spokespeople; proactive/reactive media outreach; and messaging to allied partners.

African Swine Fever Risk Calls for Action

The global African swine fever (ASF) outbreak in China is wreaking havoc on the international pork industry. Fortunately, ASF is not in the United States at this time, but the possibility of it or another foreign animal disease (FAD), means that American pig farmers must take the necessary steps to protect their farms and the domestic pork industry.

As U.S. pig farmers know, a robust export market is critical to the ongoing success of the nation’s pork industry. In 2018, U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports totaled 5.37 billion pounds valued at $6.392 billion, according to USDA. If an FAD such as ASF entered the United States, it would likely eliminate this entire valuation to zero for an unknown amount of time. Taking steps to prevent this from happening requires immediate actions, such as those outlined in the resources noted in this newsletter and found at www.pork.org/fad.

On-Farm Biosecurity Resources

To help guard against FADs, consider using these checklists and fact sheets for pigs raised indoors or outdoors. These resources will help you develop an enhanced biosecurity plan that is unique to your own farm’s needs.

Know the Signs…

Anyone who works with pigs should be familiar with the signs of ASF in animals:

  • High fever
  • Decreased appetite and weakness
  • Red, blotchy skin or skin lesions
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Coughing and difficulty breathing

To help ensure none of these signs are overlooked, be sure to get free hard copies of FAD Barn Posters and fact sheets in English or Spanish from the Pork Checkoff by going to the Pork Store via pork.org.

Know Who to Call…

Immediately report animals with any of ASF signs to your herd veterinarian or to your state or federal animal health officials. You also may call USDA’s toll-free number at (866) 536-7593 for appropriate testing and investigation. Timeliness is essential to preventing the spread of ASF, so don’t delay if you see any of these signs.

ASF Present in Over 40 Countries

When it comes to African swine fever (ASF), today it seems it’s almost easier to say where the virus isn’t present. According to the World Health Organization (OIE), more than 40 countries have reported the deadly virus either in wild or domestic pigs during the past five years (It’s over 50 countries without this caveat). Of course, not all of these countries are significant pork producers, but the diversity of ASF’s geographic spread shows how easily the virus can spread.

Burkina Faso
Cabo Verde
Central African Republic
Cote D’Ivoire
Czech Republic
Sierra Leone
South Africa

Iowa to Hold Multiple FAD Workshops

Over the next few weeks, the Iowa Pork Industry Center and Iowa State University extension swine specialists will offer five workshops to help producers understand state and federal responses to a foreign animal disease (FAD) outbreak and learn how to use Secure Pork Supply (SPS) resources to prepare for an FAD outbreak.

The single-day workshops (in-person or online) will start with FAD Prep 101. Topics will include national movement standstill, quarantine and control areas, mass depopulations and disposal options. It will also answer the big question of how SPS can help your business continue during an FAD outbreak. Part two of the workshop is FAD Prep 201. It will cover the resources in the SPS plan and how to apply it to your individual farm.

All workshops include FAD Prep 101 from 10:00 a.m. to noon and FAD Prep 201 from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Complete this online form to sign up for any of the following workshops. There is no charge to attend.

Biosecurity Tools Available for Ongoing Fair Season

As we near August, many county fairs may be winding down, but most state fairs have yet to begin. So, there’s plenty of summer show season left for youth exhibitors to make use of Checkoff biosecurity resources, including the comprehensive Keep Your Pigs Healthy Toolkit.

Key Facts to Know about African Swine Fever


Pork is safe to eat. African swine fever is not in the United States. U.S. pigs are not affected by the African swine fever (ASF) outbreaks in other countries, to date.

  • ASF does not affect humans and therefore is not a public health threat according to USDA.
  • ASF is a disease of pigs only and therefore is not a threat to non-swine pets or other livestock.
  • As usual, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has measures in place to prevent sick animals from entering the food supply, including if ASF is detected in the U.S.
  • As with any food product, you should always follow safe handling and cooking instructions to protect your family’s health.

African swine fever is a viral disease impacting only pigs, not people — so it is not a public health threat nor a food-safety concern.

  • ASF cannot be transmitted to humans through contact with pigs or pork.
  • ASF only affects members of the pig family.
  • ASF can be transmitted to pigs through feeding of food waste containing contaminated pork products. The Swine Health Protection Act regulates the feeding of food waste containing meat to pigs to ensure that it is safe.
  • ASF is transmitted to pigs through direct contact with infected pigs, their waste, blood, contaminated clothing, feed, equipment and vehicles, and in some cases, some tick species.

The USDA does not allow importation of pigs or fresh pork products into the U.S. from areas or regions of the world that are reported positive for the ASF virus.

  • Restrictions are based on USDA’s recognition of the animal health status of the region and are enforced by the Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service.
  • International travelers should be diligent in following all rules and regulations related to the US Customs and Border Patrol reentry declarations.

Why is ASF not a human health concern?

  • African swine fever is a viral disease affecting only pigs, not people; so it is not a public health threat nor a food safety concern.
  • According to Dan Rock, Professor of Pathobiology, University of Illinois, most viruses demonstrate some degree of host restriction; they replicate in one cell type or host and not in another. While there are exceptions, this is the general rule not the exception. In the case of ASF virus, there is no evidence supporting either subclinical or clinical infection of humans.
  • The host restriction in ASF virus is likely due to the absence of susceptible and permissive cells needed for viral replication. It could also be related to the inability of the virus to overcome intrinsic and innate host responses generated following ASF virus exposure.

Can countries with ASF export pork?

  • The World Organization for Animal health (OIE), of which the United States is a member, considers African swine fever to be a trade-limiting foreign animal disease of pigs.
  • Countries with confirmed cases are subject to international trade restrictions aimed at reducing the risk of introduction of the disease through trade.
  • The United States has never had a case of African swine fever and there are strict animal health and import requirements enforced by USDA APHIS Veterinary Services, USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine and DHS Customs and Border Protection to prevent entry into the United States. There is a national response strategy for African swine fever that has been developed by USDA Veterinary Services.

What is the U.S. pork industry doing in response to ASF and preparedness to protect the U.S. swine herd?

  • In response to the current situation in China and other countries, the National Pork Board has been working closely with the National Pork Producers Council, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the Swine Health Information Center to monitor the situation and collaborate with the USDA.
  • The organizations are working together to gather intelligence, engage subject matter experts, assess risk and determine appropriate actions moving forward to address the issue. As this situation continues to develop, we will provide future updates.

For a full list of producer resources and tools about ASF, please click on pork.org/FAD or call the Pork Checkoff at 1-800-456-7675. Detailed consumer information on ASF is available at Pork.to/factsaboutpork

Additional Information

African swine fever is a highly infectious viral disease impacting only pigs, not people, so it is not a public health threat nor a food safety concern. The World Organization for Animal health (OIE), of which the United States is a member, considers African swine fever to be a trade-limiting foreign animal disease of swine. Countries with confirmed cases are subject to international trade restrictions aimed at reducing the risk of introduction of the disease through trade. The United States has never had a case of African swine fever. There are strict animal health and import requirements enforced by USDA APHIS Veterinary Services, USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine and Customs and Border Protection to prevent entry into the United States. There is a national response plan for African swine fever that has been developed by USDA Veterinary Services.

In response to the current situation in China and other countries, the National Pork Board has been working closely with the National Pork Producers Council, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the Swine Health Information Center to monitor the situation and to collaborate with the USDA.

New Biosecurity Sign Available

To make it clear that your farm site is not open to unauthorized visitors/traffic, consider ordering this new, 12 x 18 inch sign at no cost from the Pork Checkoff.

FAD Resources from Pork Checkoff and Other Industry Partners


National Pork Board FAD Resources Holding Time Calculations for Feed Ingredients
FAD Preparation Checklist for Producers Hosting International Visitors on Your Farm
Traveling Overseas Biosecurity USDA Disease Response Strategy: ASF
African Swine Fever Fact Sheet U.S. Pork Industry Guide to the Secure Pork Supply Plan
Secure Pork Supply Website FAD Resource Packet w/Posters
Webinar: FAD and Secure Pork Supply Plan, What You Need to Know SHIC Global Disease Monitoring Reports
Iowa Pork Industry Center ASF Resources

For more information:




Please send questions and comments about this newsletter to:

Mike King

Director of Science Communications
National Pork Board

The National Pork Board has responsibility for Checkoff-funded research, promotion and consumer information projects and for communicating with pork producers and the public. Through a legislative national Pork Checkoff, pork producers invest $0.40 for each $100 value of hogs sold. Importers of pork products contribute a like amount, based on a formula. The Pork Checkoff funds national and state programs in advertising, consumer information, retail and foodservice marketing, export market promotion, production improvement, science and technology, swine health, pork safety and sustainability and environmental management. 

For information on Checkoff-funded programs, pork producers can call the Pork Checkoff Service Center at (800) 456-7675 or check the Internet at http://www.pork.org. 

By Tucker Allmer - The BARN

Tucker Allmer & the BARN are members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB), the Colorado FFA Foundation, the Colorado 4H Foundation, the Colorado Farm Show Marketing Committee, 1867 Club Board Member, Denver Ag & Livestock Club Member, the Weld County Fair Board, the Briggsdale FFA Advisory Council, Briggsdale 4H Club Beef Leader & Founder / Coordinator of the Briggsdale Classic Open Jackpot Show.

%d bloggers like this: