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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Harvest covers these agriculture-related topics through an expanding network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Most Harvest Public Media stories begin with radio- regular reports are aired on member stations in the Midwest. But Harvest also explores issues through online analyses, television documentaries and features, podcasts, photography, video, blogs and social networking. They are committed to the highest journalistic standards. Click here to read their ethics standards.Harvest Public Media was launched in 2010 with the support of a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Today, the collaboration is supported by CPB, the partner stations, and contributions from underwriters and individuals.Tri States Public Radio is an associate partner of Harvest Public Media. You can play an important role in helping Harvest Public Media and Tri States Public Radio improve our coverage of food, field and fuel issues by joining the Harvest Network. Learn more here.

USDA Makes PED Reportable Disease

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File: Peter Gray/Harvest Public Media
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Hog farmers are now required to report outbreaks of certain viral diseases that have spread across the country during the past year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Until now, two strains of the porcine epidemic diarrhea virus and swine delta coronavirus, which is similar to PED but not as lethal, had not been considered reportable diseases. That’s partly because they do not pose any food safety or human health threat. But the rapid spread of PED, in particular, has led to huge losses in the pork supply because the disease can wipe out entire litters of piglets.

The USDA hopes that the new information will help quell the spread of the virus. But Iowa State University veterinarian Rodney Baker says the reporting requirement may be too little too late.

“Reporting itself doesn’t help us with the disease at all,” Baker said, “unless there’s some action taken through the reporting process that prevents the spread of the disease.”

Baker says it’s not yet clear whether the department will take further action. But he recognizes that mandatory reporting is an important step.

“We certainly need to get this in place,” he said. “Knowing that these diseases managed to get through our border biosecurity tells us that there’s a lot of other ones out there that could affect trade.”

Baker says U.S. pork producers earn 20 to 25 percent of their income from the export market. Lessons learned in controlling PED and delta coronavirus could be useful when the next new disease enters this country, Baker says. For now, the reporting change doesn’t call for restrictions on movement or trade.

And Baker says it may improve the accuracy of loss estimates, which until now relied on voluntary reporting. He’s hopeful a hot summer, tighter biosecurity measures and the increased paper trail reporting will generate may all combine to prevent a widespread outbreak of PED next winter.