USDA’s Ibach Talks Traceability, Trade and African Swine Fever

What’s one of Gregory Ibach’s “personal goals”? The Under Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Regulatory programs told members of the U.S. Animal Health Association on of his goals is to advance animal disease traceability. And he’s in good company: The industry is fortunate to have Sonny Perdue, a veterinarian and advocate for farmers, as Secretary of Agriculture.

“[Secretary Perdue] understands the importance of biosecurity and what it takes to protect people and livestock in the U.S. Biosecurity is on all our minds,” Ibach says.

Ibach, a farmer who formerly served as the Nebraska Director of Agriculture, believes traceability is an important component of biosecurity.

“The pork and beef industries have driven the conversation about an FMD [Foot and Mouth Disease] bank – that priority has given us a window and perhaps some momentum on animal disease traceability,” he says. He points to these four key areas:

1. USDA needs to provide leadership in building a backbone for information exchange with the states.

2.  Individual movement of animals is common, and the best way to track these animals is through an electronic ID system.

3.  Farms and ranches need premise IDs, and individual animal IDs need to be retired at slaughter. “We need to work with you – our state and industry partners – to make the argument to producers about this,” Ibach says.

4.  Electronic health certificates improve timeliness and create better traceability, Ibach says. He hopes education is the key to better understanding for some of the industries that resist animal ID and traceability.

African Swine Fever and Trade
Ibach says African Swine Fever is an emerging disease that government and industry are very concerned about. He’s also concerned that the scope of the problem in China could be much larger than reported.

“We have been re-evaluating where shipments are coming from, especially from countries that are getting products from China,” Ibach says. “In the meantime, we need help from our partners across the states.”

He points out that states should review the protocols of an emergency disease response and determine what resources are necessary.

“We’re very much at the mercy of identifying [foreign animal diseases] very early in the process, control animal movement, and keep the rest of the U.S. open with ongoing trade should it show up here,” Ibach says.

Trade is good for the economy but Ibach says the U.S. is at increased risk with people bringing in items and products they shouldn’t, referring to the cooked pig that was discovered in a person’s luggage by a K-9 Beagle last week.

However, “in zones and regions where we have trade agreements that are working successfully, transparency is greatly enhanced,” Ibach says.

The USAHA meeting continues through Wednesday of this week.