BY CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
Des Moines, Iowa — The National Pork Board recently held a webinar to inform its members about the spread of Covid-19 and what that might mean to pork producers.
Dr. Heather Fowler, public health director, National Pork Board, started off the presentation with an overview of the virus and how it is spread.
Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian, NPPC, continued the discussion. NPPC is drawing attention in Washington, D.C., to ongoing labor shortages facing the pork industry and other agriculture sectors, she said These shortages could significantly worsen due to the impact of COVID-19.
“In a letter to the President and other administration officials, members of Congress, and state governors, NPPC called for expedited solutions addressing the need for more workers on hog farms and in pork plants,” Wagstrom said.
COVID-19 is not a food borne or food packaging issue, Wagstrom said. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors are being monitored. If there are any shortages of inspectors due to illness, FSIS has the personnel to backfill into those situations so that the plants can continue operations.
“We realize food is a critical infrastructure in the United States,” Wagstrom said. “Also, looking at trucking as critical infrastructure, how are we going to move our animals and animal feeds?
“We need to consider Hours of Service (rules) which were suspended in some other industries,” she said. “We reached out to the administration that we need to consider Hours of Service waivers for animal feed, animal health officials at federal and state levels. What are our options in the case of a backup of animals moving to market? How would you handle it if you couldn’t move animals for a day or two?”
COVID-19 is an ever-evolving situation, said Neil Dierks, CEO of NPPC, in concluding the webinar. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has a goal of avoiding markets disruptions, and if there is one, being able to recover from it. COVID-19 is not a foreign animal disease, but Dierks still encouraged producers to look at their animal health plans.
Dierks ended with a quote from Howard AV Roth, president of NPPC: “As pork producers, we are committed to maintaining the core infrastructure of America’s food supply, farms,” Roth said. “Pork producers and other farmers take seriously the responsibility we hold for getting people fed. Tele commuting is not an option for us. We have to report each day for work, but as always, we’ll be taking the necessary precautions to protect our health and the health of those we work with.”
To view the webinar or for other information and resources, visit www.pork.org and click on the COVID 19 link.