In honor of World Pork Expo, this edition of Feed Management is focused on swine nutrition. To properly cover this topic, it would be impossible not to mention the effects of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) on the U.S. swine herd and, in turn, the feed industry. As I worked on this issue’s cover story, I become keenly aware of how quickly developments were unfolding. (When I began, the disease had spread to 26 states; by the end, 30.)

In response to the feed industry’s demand for more PED virus information, AFIA dedicated a number of sessions to the disease at its annual Purchasing & Ingredient Suppliers Conference (PISC). During her presentation, “Biosecurity, protecting the feed ingredient supply chain and what you need to know,” Dr. Marty Vanier, director of operations for Kansas State University’s National and Cultural Biosecurity Center, offered an overview of the biosecurity challenges facing U.S. agriculture.

Vanier characterized PED virus as a “wakeup call,” noting that the strengths of U.S. agriculture, i.e., its ability to efficiently import and export agriculture products in a global marketplace, also make it especially vulnerable.

To mitigate the risks and potential impact of such threats, specifically crop and animal disease, Vanier suggest the feed industry devote more energy to situational awareness (SA). SA involves paying attention to what is happening in order to understand how information and events will impact outcomes, both immediately and in the near future.

From communicating with your peers locally to following global politics, it’s important to understand -- and plan for -- unforeseen events that could potentially affect your business and, ultimately, your customers.

“We don’t know what we don’t know, but we have to identify and respond to all of these unknowns,” Vanier says. “The only way you can do that is to expect the unexpected.”

The devastation PED virus caused in only a year serves as a reminder that U.S. agriculture isn’t immune to biological threats. As a number of serious plant and animal diseases disrupt production abroad, let’s hope that enhanced biosecurity and collective awareness can safeguard against their spread onto U.S. soil.