FARM SHOWS STEP UP PRECAUTIONS TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF FOOT-AND-MOUTH DISEASE
Debbie Coakley, Contributing Editor
While the 2001 World Pork Expo was canceled, other livestock and trade shows will go on as planned this summer and fall, albeit with heightened biosecurity standards.
"The concern we’re hearing from exhibitors and producers is that international visitors will bring foot-and-mouth disease to the show," says John Rozum, sales manager for World Dairy Expo, which is set for Oct. 3-7 in Madison, Wis. Expo’s executive committee concluded at a meeting in April that there is no reason not to proceed with the show despite the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the United Kingdom and Europe.
International livestock and trade shows, as well as general farm shows with livestock demonstrations, are relying on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and their state departments of agriculture for guidance about how to prevent the introduction of FMD into the United States. For instance, the North American Farm Show Council is supplying its 30 member farm shows with USDA’s FactSheet on disease-prevention guidelines for livestock shows.
"We’re looking at livestock issues totally differently," says R. Craig Fendrick, executive director for the council. "Should the threat of FMD continue, we’re recommending exhibitors have controlled access to animals, use a decontamination system and consult with their state departments of agriculture to keep aware of current information."
PROTECTING PORK PRODUCERS
The 2001 World Pork Expo was canceled in an effort to be proactive and help protect the health status of the U.S. swine herd and protect U.S. pork producers, according to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), sponsor of the 14-year-old show.
NPPC Vice President Ernie Barnes says the decision was prudent, given the fact that the show was scheduled to take place in early June in Des Moines, Iowa. "At the time the decision was made, new cases were still being reported daily in the United Kingdom," he explains. "We needed to make a decision as early as possible so exhibitors and guests could cancel their plans to come to the show. World Pork Expo annually draws between 1,800 and 2,000 visitors from 60 countries."
The NPPC board decided in mid April to cancel the show, based on input from its health and biosecurity committees, Iowa producers concerned about the possibility the disease would be brought to their state, and exhibitors.
Barnes says 99 percent of exhibitors, as well as pork producers themselves, appreciate NPPC’s decision to cancel the show. "We developed a program to help companies communicate information about their products to producers they would have seen at the show," Barnes notes. "We offered several opportunities to companies that donated a portion of their 2001 exhibitor fees to NPPC."
NPPC converted the show’s program into a directory of suppliers and services. Supporting companies received a free listing and could purchase ads in the directory, which was mailed in June to 110,000 U.S. pork producers.
In addition, companies that donated the cost of at least one booth will not incur a price increase for exhibit space in 2002. "We’ll definitely have Expo next year, although we’re exploring whether we’ll have live animals at that show," Barnes says. "Our biosecurity and health committees will be addressing this issue."
Barnes points out that biosecurity measures to control potential disease situations are not new to World Pork Expo. For instance, at last year’s show in Indianapolis, the swine barn was surrounded by a footbath with a solution that kills FMD. "Visitors had to walk through the solution or wear a pair of complimentary plastic boots," he notes.
BEEFING UP BIOSECURITY
Shows such as World Dairy Expo, World Beef Expo and World Ag Expo will take place as scheduled and are placing a priority on biosecurity issues.
World Dairy Expo’s Rozum says it’s important to realize that FMD is not new, but the outbreak in Europe has increased awareness. Expo annually attracts 70,000 dairy farmers, including 3,500 from outside the U.S. borders. "At the 2000 World Dairy Expo, nearly one-third of the international visitors came from countries with active FMD cases, and there was no contamination or even a second thought about FMD," he explains. "The European outbreak has shown us the need for heightened domestic biosecurity measures. It just needs to be taken into perspective."
Rozum says Expo planners are fortunate to have time on their side because the event isn’t until October. "Every day the spread of FMD in Europe becomes more under control," he notes.
A news conference, viewable at www.worlddairyexpo.com, was scheduled in June to unveil Expo’s biosecurity plan and present an analysis of the global FMD situation. In cooperating with animal health authorities and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, this conference was a joint effort to communicate with exhibitors and attendees the appropriate measures the show is taking. "The health of the North American dairy herd is of utmost importance to everyone at World Dairy Expo," Rozum explains. "The producers and industry representatives who make up our board of directors will do everything reasonable and possible to provide a safe and healthy environment."
World Beef Expo is scheduled to take place Sept. 27-30 in West Allis, Wis. "We’re working with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Tourism and Consumer Protection (DATCP) to keep an eye on the FMD situation," says Barbara James, ag coordinator for the show, which draws international visitors yearly.
World Beef Expo will send to exhibitors a letter with DATCP guidelines to help prevent the spread of FMD. Measures include: 1) If animals are to return to the farm after the show, isolate them from other animals for 30 days. 2) Do not share feed buckets, tools, boots or other equipment with other exhibitors unless the items have been disinfected.
Even though the next World Ag Expo won’t take place until Feb. 12-14, 2002, in Tulare, Calif., the International Agri-Center (host of the show) already has created an FMD task force. The group is working with USDA and California ag officials on precautions that should be taken at the nearby international airport. "We’re also looking at how we promote the show to international visitors," says Gary Schulz, general manager. "We’re including precautions in promotional materials about things international guests must do when entering the U.S. to keep out FMD."
Most exhibitors are supporting decisions to cancel or continue farm shows, according to managers of the aforementioned shows.
DEKALB CHOICE GENETICS, a Monsanto company based in St. Louis, applauds NPPC’s commitment and efforts to maintain the health status of the U.S. swine herd. "We initiated dialogues with key customers to address concerns," says Tom Kasser, general manager of the company. "They told us that attendees and participants of World Pork Expo would be required to honor a two-month restriction from on-farm visits. That would have put many constraints across this industry and on our services."
DEKALB CHOICE GENETICS - which annually has a booth at the show - donated a portion of its exhibitor fees to NPPC and sponsored a listing and full-page ad in NPPC’s directory for pork producers.
"We’re also exploring other sponsorships and partnerships with NPPC, as well as sharing product performance data that we would have released at the show via direct mail to producers," Kasser says.
World Dairy Expo’s Rozum reports that only one exhibitor canceled a booth at the 2001 show because of concerns about FMD. "While we may not agree with the reasons why they canceled, we respect their decision to do so," Rozum says. "We have a waiting list each year, and the space already has been resold."
Ecolab Inc., St. Paul, Minn., has exhibited at World Dairy Expo for more than 25 years and will have a booth at the 2001 event. The company has a unique perspective on biosecurity issues because one of its divisions markets sanitation systems and products to the dairy industry. "Biosecurity begins at home operations," says Chris Sigurdson, agri senior marketing manager. "Expo is an opportunity for us to inform dairy producers about how they can utilize sanitation and disinfection systems to prevent the spread of disease, including FMD."
He notes that the company recently received EPA approval for an antimicrobial disinfectant (Oxy-Sept® 333) to protect livestock against potential infection by FMD. AM (Sidebar below)
FMD FACTS According to USDA, foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious and economically devastating disease of cattle and swine. It also affects sheep, goats and deer. The disease spreads widely and rapidly, and there is no cure for it. Many affected animals recover, but FMD leaves them debilitated. The disease causes severe losses in the production of meat and milk. FMD does not affect food safety or humans. The United States has been free of FMD since 1929.
Debbie Coakley is a freelance writer based in Warrenville, Ill.