The National Pork Board has announced additional funds earmarked for research in the fight against the further spread of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PED virus), which was first identified in the United States in May 2013. The funds - $650,000 through supplemental funding approved by the Pork Checkoff and $500,000 through a new agreement with Genome Alberta, will provide new opportunities for research.
"This has become one of the most serious and devastating diseases our pig farmers have faced in decades," said Karen Richter, a Minnesota producer and president of the National Pork Board. "While it has absolutely no impact on food safety, it has clear implications for the pork industry in terms of supplying pork to consumers. Our No. 1 priority is to address (PED virus)."
Additionally, the Pork Checkoff announced a new collaboration with a number of industry players, including the National Pork Producers Council, the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, the American Feed Industry Association, the National Grain and Feed Association, the National Renderers Association and the North American Spray Dried Blood and Plasma Protein Producers, which is made up of five member-companies throughout the United States and Canada.
Working together, this project will align swine, feed and veterinary groups to bring an even higher level of collaboration in the fight against the disease. Now active in some parts of Canada, PED virus continues to cause a heavy loss of piglets on farms across the United States.
"I am hopeful others will join our coordinated effort to specifically define risks and share information to contain the further spread," said Richter. The new effort was announced during the annual National Pork Industry Forum in Kansas City March 6-8.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, PED virus has surfaced in 26 states. Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics and a Pork Checkoff consultant, estimates the loss of more than 5 million piglets in the past several months, with 1.3 million lost in January alone.
"Losses of this magnitude will ultimately have a consumer impact through a reduction in supply," Meyer said. "Some pork supply will be made up through producing higher market-weight hogs and through other loss mitigation actions, but today we are already seeing summer pork futures climb to record levels."
Part of the Pork Checkoff's supplemental funding of $650,000 will be used for feed-related research to better understand thepotential role feed may play in PED virus transmission. Also, a portion of the funding will be used to identify ways to increase sow immunity and to better understand transmission and biosecurity risks. This brings the current level of Pork Checkoff-funded research to approximately $1.7 million since June 2013.
"That investment will be centered on further containing (PED virus) with a specific focus on feed research and related issues, building the immunity of breeding herds and biosecurity measures," said Dr. Paul Sundberg, vice president of Science and Technology at the National Pork Board.
In a related move, Genome Alberta is cooperating with the National Pork Board to identify research gaps in understanding PED virus and stem its spread. Genome Albert has committed approximately $500,000 toward a coordinated U.S./Canadian effort and is seeking additional funds from Canadian, provincial and regional agencies.