Farm leaders put human face to the consequences of an ASF outbreak

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Ottawa – Canadian and American farm leaders reminded more than 150 delegates to a two-day international conference on the threat African Swine Flu (ASF) poses to the Americas of the human suffering an outbreak of the disease would create.

Rick Bergmann, Chairman of the Canadian Pork Council, said during the opening session that while ASF has no human health effect, the impact of the discovery of disease in Canada “would have a huge impact on the mental health of the 7,000 farmers who raise hogs and 417,000 people whose employment is tied to the pork industry.

“An outbreak of ASF would take a catastrophic toll on the producers in Canada,” the Manitoba farmer said. He urged the conference delegates to focus on finding ways to stop the spread of the disease and launch international collaboration on developing a cure. “We have so much to gain and so much to loose.”

Neil Derks, CEO of the National Pork Producers Council, said pork production is a key component of farming in the United States. “We need a co-ordinated response to a disease outbreak if it occurs.

“But we also need solutions that are based in reality.”

Bergmann urged the delegates from through the Americas as well as Asia and Europe “to put your coveralls and be ready to work. We have to find success and make changes to protect our animals and the people who raise them.

After the opening session, the conference went behind closed doors to try to agree on a going-forward plan to halt the spread of the disease and how to respond in the case it is found in the Americas.

The Pork Council said it was confident “the different sessions on preparedness planning, enhancing biosecurity, ensuring business continuity and risk communication will foster collaboration. This increased collaboration will make it easier for the industry to continue establishing strategies to prevent the disease from coming to the Americas. Stakeholders will also be more prepared to put into motion cohesive actions to mitigate the impact of African swine fever on the industry.”

It also wants “bilateral agreements between major export markets and Canada would allow pork exports to resume once an ASF-free zone is established by Canadian Food Inspection Agency following an outbreak.”

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