America’s livestock industry accounts for millions of U.S. jobs and nearly 6 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Our country has always been the global leader in agricultural production and exports, and thanks to vigilant diligence by the USDA and the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, we have been able to keep numerous foreign animal diseases outside our borders. However, we want to ensure that diligence continues, otherwise inaction could threaten America’s standing, putting the livestock industry, the economy and consumers at risk.
The agriculture community worked very hard to ensure the 2018 Farm Bill included funding for a U.S. Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) vaccine bank, and farmers made their voices heard at Farm Bill listening sessions, stressing the importance of the bank. Under the Farm Bill, USDA is authorized to use $150 million over the next five years for an FMD vaccine bank, for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and for state efforts to prepare for any foreign animal disease outbreak. The bill also gives Agriculture Secretary Perdue discretion to dedicate additional funding for this critical initiative.
FMD can infect all cloven-hooved animals. Therefore, an FMD outbreak would cripple the entire agricultural sector and have long-lasting ramifications for the economic viability of U.S. crop and livestock production. An FMD outbreak would immediately close all export markets to U.S. meat, and according to Iowa State University economists, it would translate into more than $128 billion in losses for the beef and pork sectors, losses of $44 billion and $25 billion, respectively, to the corn and soybean farmers, and job losses of more than 1.5 million, industry-wide.
Unfortunately, the U.S. does not have quick-enough access to an FMD vaccine to handle more than a very small, localized outbreak. Since FMD includes 24 different strains circulating in the world, we need to increase both the number of strains we have and the number of doses of each of those strains. While there is a small North American FMD Vaccine Bank that is shared with Mexico and Canada, it is not enough for more than a small outbreak. Vaccine manufacturing capacity is not adequate to supply vaccine on demand. Turnaround time to produce enough vaccine would be weeks for a small outbreak and months for a large one. That’s why an adequate FMD vaccine bank is necessary.
We view a U.S. vaccine bank as the best insurance policy to respond to an FMD outbreak in the United States. As with most insurance policies, we hope to never use it, but it’s paramount that we have fast access to enough vaccine if we ever need it. We are pleased Congress included funding for an FMD vaccine bank in the latest farm bill, and encouraged that USDA recently published a Sources Sought Notice, to gather information from interested vaccine manufacturers on their ability to supply an FMD vaccine. We urge USDA to quickly analyze the submissions and move to contracting for the vaccine.
Livestock producers are already hurting as a result of trade disruptions caused by retaliatory tariffs. An FMD outbreak, without implementing the vaccine bank, would be devastating to our nation’s rural economy. Establishing the U.S. FMD vaccine bank would be a positive step by the administration to support our farmers and ranchers. We urge USDA to quickly implement the FMD vaccine bank and keep America first in agriculture.
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