Perhaps the primary question at hand for today’s industry that is export-centric, highly mobile, and composed of a complex network of multi-site and multi-state production systems in an ever increasingly globalized world is: Do you believe the legacy systems and approach to animal health control can meet the needs and challenges of the 21st century US pork industry?
Most US pork industry stakeholders are unfamiliar with the NPIP. Therefore, a major aim of this case study report is to provide an overview of the NPIP and the process by which it coordinates/focuses the energies of program participants, breadth of industry stakeholders, subject matter experts, and regulatory agencies on problems of broad importance to US poultry and egg industries. At its core, NPIP is a platform wherein industry, state, and federal partners address poultry health standards, definitions, and policies. Decisions made at each NPIP Biennial Conference have genuine impact, as evidenced by their inclusion in the Code of Federal Regulations (9 CFR) and publication in the NPIP Program Standards. Given its long history of success in bettering the health of US poultry and competitiveness of the US poultry and egg industries, the question of whether an “NPIP like model” could better protect the current and future interests of the US pork industry is worth consideration by industry stakeholders.
Ultimately, the decision to further explore or pursue something akin to the NPIP for the US pork industry must be determined by pork producers and packers. Pork packing plants (i.e., slaughter facilities) must certainly play an essential leadership role in any such voluntary program that aims to certify the health status or health management practices implemented by its suppliers in support of export market access. Interest, leadership, and participation among some portion of the US pork packing sector would be a foundational element necessary to initiate any type of voluntary program that includes an aim to support export market access for fresh pork in the event of an introduction of a TID in the US. Voluntary animal health or animal health management practice assurance related programs encouraged or required at a point of sale seem to be a common model globally.
History suggests sustainable improvements to the health status of swine herds across large areas, regions, states, and country require industry leaders to set-forth simplistic, practical, strategic, and effective baseline standards of practice that can be widely adopted by commercial pork producers. Industry led leadership, collaboration, adaptability, constancy of purpose, and consistency of execution across the masses have been the hallmarks of historical successes. Experience suggests that the next generation of practical solutions for mitigating the grand animal health challenges facing the US pork industry can only come from the expertise, leadership, and collaborative spirit that resides within the US pork industry stakeholder community. Therefore, to encourage and cultivate this leadership, and introduce the question raised in this case study to a broader audience, the contents of this study should be widely distributed to industry stakeholders in a variety of media: print, narrated video presentation, and podcast. Opportunities to present and further explore this topic at regional meetings throughout the US would provide the opportunity for two way communication (e.g., question/answer, and group discussion) among the broad spectrum of US pork industry participants (producers, packers, veterinarians, diagnosticians, state and federal veterinary medical officials, etc.).
NPIP’s more than 80 years of implementation and evolution need to be acknowledged, when determining what would be just the first steps towards establishing a similar program for US swine. Identifying the initial area(s) of emphasis, focus, and tangible first deliverable(s) would be critical when considering the potential for initiating an NPIP like program for the US pork industry. Figure 15 serves to provide a summary of the primary potential components or areas of emphasis that could be included in a US Swine Health Improvement Plan. Determining the preferred organizational structure and identifying areas of common interest that have both a high and relatively near-term impact would seem like logical place to start.
Beyond the scope of this case study, but consistent with its intent, there would be value in conducting a comparative case study of the various swine health assurance or certification programs being implemented elsewhere in the world (e.g., Denmark, Netherlands, etc.). Similarly, an in-depth review of the primary infrastructure, systems, and practices that would need to change in the event of an extended TID Recovery period in the US would provide context as we prepare for the future, and identify changes and improvements that are needed to support a highly competitive export-centric pork industry well into the future.
Continuous improvement has long been a core principle of the US pork industry. Consistent with that tradition, establishing a US Swine Health Improvement Plan modeled after the basic tenets of the NPIP would be among the more significant swine health related undertakings in the history of the US pork industry. Such a decision presents as an opportunity to create a sustainable pathway to a better, more robust, and less vulnerable US pork industry. Asset preservation, and protecting the opportunities and way of life for the breadth of current and future US pork industry participants and their local communities come to mind. The opportunities, challenges, and animal health related risks in the US pork industry have not likely ever been greater. In these authors’ opinion, the primary, macro level (industry wide) swine health related risks, vulnerabilities, and opportunities for improvement are generally well understood. New approaches are needed to address the ever-more complex and consequential swine health challenges (and opportunities) that extend beyond the individual producer’s or packer’s farm gate. In particular, substantive and systematic improvements are needed to strengthen all three phases (Prevention, Response, & Recovery) of TID preparedness and enhance the industry’s ability to control, mitigate, or eliminate REDs of high consequence on a supply chain, industry segment, regional, or industry wide level. While there are no short-term solutions to the major swine health related challenges at hand, making stepwise progress in addressing these major challenges all seems quite doable with the more than adequate diversity of skills, practical know-how, collaborative spirit, and innate pursuit for continuous improvement that exists across the expanse of the US pork industry.