When it comes to animal health, one of the topics that is on the minds of those involved, especially leaders in the pork industry, is African Swine Fever (ASF).

As part of Farmfest, a forum was held Aug. 7 in the afternoon featuring a number of Minnesota experts from the industry and from health, as well as economic, entities who all helped to put the issue of ASF into perspective.

The message from one expert to the next was the same.

This is a disease that would have a devastating impact on the pork industry in the United States, as well as the entire ag economy. That means all efforts must be utilized to ensure this disease does not find its way into North America.

Yes, said David Preisler, Minnesota Pork Board executive director, that could be expensive, but the alternative is much worse. 

Preisler referenced a study by an Iowa State University economist who took a look at what could happen in terms of economics if African Swine Fever would hit the U.S.

According to Preisler in the model that the economist put together it would cost, at the pork producer level, approximately $8 billion in the first year. The impact would move down the chain, said Preisler, as those who are the suppliers to those producers would also feel it.

Without people raising hogs there would be an economic loss for corn producers in the area of $4 billion in that first year with the impact for the soybean industry in the $1.5 billion range.

Preisler reiterated the efforts to keep African Swine Fever come with a cost, but those costs pale in comparison to the impact that would happen if ASF would make it to the U.S.

In an earlier discussion related to the tariff issue between the United States and China, Rep. Collin Peterson added while China has announced that it will not be importing ag commodities that reduction is not fully related to the imposed tariffs put on by the U.S. administration.

China, which has had an outbreak in ASF, has experienced dramatic loss in pork production.

With no pigs to feed there is no reason for China to be buying commodities it otherwise might from U.S. producers, said Peterson.

Preisler said one key thing that the United States can do is increase the number of federal inspectors who are at the borders. Although focus is being placed currently on ASF, Preisler said the additional inspectors would also help to address other disease threats to the U.S.