The US pork industry has long believed in “continuous process improvement” for all aspects of pork production, and the search for better nutrition, genetics, facilities, welfare, and health has driven the evolution of the industry over the decades. As a result, today’s US pork industry is a world leader in production efficiency, product quality, and competitiveness. However, recent events have exposed two threats to this leadership position:
- pathogens endemic to the US that resist traditional control strategies and
- pathogens (trade impacting diseases) whose detection within our borders would immediately cause a ban of US pork from global markets and result in a seismic shift and economic hardship across the entire US pork industry.
Benjamin Franklin’s words seem written for these circumstances: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” That is, it is our responsibility to prepare for the risks that threaten our future. But how should the industry move forward? Initiated in 1935, the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) is a poultry industry-driven entity designed to promote health and control targeted diseases among participating US poultry producers and slaughter facilities, and presents a possible model for the pork industry to learn from and consider. A study was commissioned by the Swine Health Information Center in 2018 with the aim of understanding the NPIP and assessing the potential for an NPIP like program to support the US pork industry. While there are many species- and industry-specific considerations, in the opinion of these authors, the findings of this study suggest that a “US Swine Health Improvement Plan,” modeled after the NPIP, could provide an effective platform for addressing the major swine health related challenges, opportunities, and risks confronting the 21st century US pork industry.
- NPIP functions to safeguard, improve, and assure the health of US poultry and egg industries and enhance the position of the US poultry products in domestic and global markets.
- Participation in NPIP is voluntary and almost universal among commercial poultry and egg operations throughout the US.
- NPIP coordinates industry, state, and federal partners to address targeted poultry health issues. That is, NPIP brings together the expertise, capabilities, and influence of stakeholders and subject matter experts to determine the best strategy to achieve industry goals and establish industry standards.
- NPIP guidelines and health status classifications are used by US poultry and egg industry participants to represent their animals’ health status and demonstrate freedom from specified trade and non-trade impacting diseases at points of sale, exhibition, interstate movement, and in support of international trade.
- Decisions on NPIP program content and direction are established through a majority vote of a congress of industry stakeholders at the NPIP Biennial Conference, approved by USDA APHIS leadership, and then published in the Code of Federal Regulations (9 CFR) and NPIP Program Standards document, i.e., a voluntary program recognized by Federal and State authorities across all 50 states. The 9 CFR and NPIP Program Standards document are updated as needed according to the decisions made at each NPIP Biennial Conference.
- Poultry and egg producers, hatcheries, slaughter facilities, and states determine their participation and which NPIP certifications they choose to pursue and obtain. Each state has an NPIP Official State Agency that is structured and operates in a manner that best meets the needs of the poultry and egg industries within their respective state.
- Globalization, multi-site production, and a marked dependence on export markets have changed the landscape of swine health and the impact of disease incursion on the US pork industry. In particular, trade impacting disease risks and recurring endemic diseases of high consequence are substantial challenges. Scalable solutions to these major and well-recognized challenges are largely beyond the immediate control or influence of any individual producer, processor, existing entity, or state.
- “Next generation” animal health assurance and area regional disease control solutions are needed to secure the future of the highly mobile and export-centric US pork industry. Experience affirms that solutions offered by government or industry, each acting independently, will not be timely, capable, or robust enough to keep pace with industry needs. State and federal animal health agencies lack the resources, capacity, and industry-specific know-how, while industry only solutions lack the coordination and authority to establish official standards and health status certifications across legally recognized areas, states, regions, or by well-defined segments of the commercial pork industry.
- NPIP’s unique industry, state, and federal partnership provides a platform wherein industry stakeholders play a direct and on-going role in establishing poultry health standards, definitions, and policies across the US poultry and egg industries. The basic tenets and approach used by the NPIP could serve as a road map for pork producers and packers (slaughter facilities) interested in more directly and systematically addressing the major swine health issues of high consequence and better positioning the future of the US pork industry in the domestic and global marketplace.