Livestock producers are welcoming the first “significant purchase” of foot-and-mouth disease vaccine by the Department of Agriculture to stockpile a new vaccine bank.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced Wednesday it would invest $27.1 million in FMD vaccine. The 2018 farm bill allocated $150 million in mandatory funding over the next five years for the development of an FMD vaccine bank, the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and the National Animal Disease Preparedness Program.

“While we are confident, we can keep foot-and-mouth disease out of the country, as we have since 1929, having access to vaccine is an important insurance policy,” USDA Marketing and Regulatory Programs Undersecretary Greg Ibach said.

FMD is an infectious viral disease producing a fever and blisters in and around the mouth and hooves of pigs, cattle, and sheep but is not a threat to food safety. Producers have long been concerned a vaccine shortage could be problematic if an outbreak were to happen.

National Pork Producers Council Chief Veterinarian Liz Wagstrom told Agri-Pulse an outbreak could devastate the nation’s livestock industry and trade relationships abroad.

“If you look at the amount of pork and beef that is exported, those exports would be cut off immediately in the case of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease,” Wagstrom said.

She said one of the best ways to get in front of an outbreak is using a vaccine.

USDA awarded Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) a contract to help supply the vaccine bank.

“With FMD expertise dating back more than 70 years, Boehringer Ingelheim constantly monitors emerging disease threats,” said Steve Boren, vice president of the U.S. livestock business at Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health.

The contract requires the company to develop and maintain a strategic reserve of frozen vaccine antigen concentrate that could quickly be formulated into an FMD vaccine.

Allison Rivera, executive director of government affairs at National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, called the purchase a “promising first step forward” and said NCBA will work with USDA and Congress to secure future funding.

Sheep producers also say the vaccine supply will be a vital resource.

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“This vaccine bank ensures sheep producers will have access to a critical lifeline if we ever need it and is a major component of our industry’s Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan,” American Sheep Industry Association Policy Director Chase Adams told Agri-Pulse. The SSWS plan provides opportunities for producers to voluntarily prepare for a potential FMD outbreak.

Iowa State University research suggests an FMD outbreak could cost $128 billion in losses for beef and pork sectors, $44 billion for corn producers and $25 billion for soybean producers. The report also said more than 1.5 million U.S. agriculture jobs could be lost over a decade.

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