Senators seek disaster aid for pork producers hurt by deadly pig virus

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, March 13, 2014 - Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D.-Mich., and Sen. Kay Hagan, D.-N.C., are urging Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to approve disaster assistance for small pork producers affected by  deadly virus that is hitting pig farms across the country.

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The Porcine Endemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) has killed more than 4 million pigs nationwide since April 2013 with significant implications for the agricultural economy, the senators said in a letter to Vilsack. They asked that he use provisions in the newly passed Farm Bill to help producers in North Carolina, Michigan and 24 other states where flocks are being devastated by the virus.

Many pork producers “are finally experiencing periods of higher margins after prolonged periods of razor thin profits,” Stabenow and Hagan said in their letter. “If this disease persists, pork herds will continue to diminish and producers risk going out of business.”

The senators asked the USDA to increase research for a vaccine and other interventions to address PEDv, for which no vaccine or treatment currently exists.

The spread of PEDv poses a serious threat to the agricultural economy as the pork industry supports nearly 550,000 jobs across the country and contributes $34.5 billion to the U.S. economy, the lawmakers noted in a news release.

PEDv has a reported mortality rate of nearly 100 percent for piglets under two weeks old and ultimately kills 50 percent to 80 percent of all newborn and suckling pigs. Older pigs are more capable of fighting the virus, suffering only a 1 percent to 3 percent death rate. The virus has occurred in Europe and Asia, but appeared in U.S. herds for the first time last spring.

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