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What happens at your cooperative if African swine fever strikes?

Pork producers in the United States are warily watching the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF) in Asia and Europe. ASF, on the march since being diagnosed in China in August 2018, is now present in each of that nation’s geographic regions. As of late April 2019, their pig inventory was down by more than 100 million head due to mortality and culling practices, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, impacting worldwide commodity markets. It is also likely that China is underreporting the impact of ASF according to other sources, meaning that the number could be greater. In response, US pork industry stakeholders are diligently ramping up prevention measures, including renewed biosecurity efforts on the farm as well as work with US Customs and Border Protection, to stop the deadly virus from entering the country which has not been affected by a foreign animal disease since 1929.

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Landus Cooperative Perspective: Grain and Feed 

Ron DeJongh, chief commodity marketing officer at Landus Cooperative, has been watching ASF-related issues intently. “Total Chinese imports of soy from both the US and Brazil are down,” he remarked. “One has to make the connection that this has to do with livestock numbers. With tariffs and political uncertainty, we have also seen the Chinese adjust their swine diets to be less reliant on soybean meal.” 

At Landus Cooperative, DeJongh says 50 million bushels of soybeans are handled each year. Of those, 20 million bushels are processed at Landus Cooperative’s soybean facility in Ralston and 10 million bushels go to other soy plants in Iowa. Another 20 million bushels are shipped out by rail to export markets, including China. “When we see a reduction in the demand for export soybeans, impacts are felt locally as the basis is reduced in Iowa,” DeJongh stated. 

Over the last five years, there has been an enormous increase in soybean carryover stocks globally. DeJongh said this issue predates the present US administration, tariffs, and ASF concerns. “Not only American farmers, but farmers around the world, are producing lots of soybeans. Production has exceeded global demand, seen in both corn and soybeans, though to a larger degree in soybeans,” he explained. And this all impacts commodity prices.

Impact on Your Imported Feed Ingredients 

In addition to the impact of ASF on commodity markets, it has changed the way Landus Cooperative handles feed ingredients. The company engages in a foreign supplier verification program. As a part of this program, Landus Cooperative inquires with suppliers about their biosecurity and other practices impacting feed ingredient safety. In-person visits to overseas plants are also made to ensure quality, resulting in a good comfort level for Landus Cooperative. 

Scott Fredrickson, feed ingredient merchandising manager for Landus Cooperative, says the company is also quarantining all ingredients coming from nations with active ASF in their hog population. Whether purchased directly or through a distributor, Landus Cooperative has implemented a 30 to 45-day quarantine to ensure these ingredients’ safety. This primarily impacts vitamins and amino acids along with some trace minerals. Due to the quarantine, Landus Cooperative now has more inventory of these products due to the necessary step, providing assurance to pork producers their feed will not be a source of disease. 

The feed-holding process is encouraged by all US pork groups including the National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, Swine Health Information Center, and American Association of Swine Veterinarians. Fredrickson believes the industry is complying out of an abundance of caution. “We are continually monitoring the advancement of ASF across countries. It’s always on our mind,” he explained. “We are also working with pork producers, advising them to ramp up their own biosecurity on their farms.” 

When he visits customers, Ned Lenhart, Landus Cooperative feed business development manager, has seen producers’ increased biosecurity steps in practice. “African swine fever is definitely on the minds of producers,” he remarked. One of Lenhart’s customers described the disease as looming over the industry. 

“The biggest thing I’ve seen in my travels, as I talk about it with producers, veterinarians, and nutritionists, is the uncertainty over knowing if it’s five days or five years until we have to deal with this virus,” Lenhart commented. 

Prevention is on the minds of everyone Lenhart encounters. He appreciates communication within the industry and sees significant preparation being done ahead of a potential outbreak.

“People have all their standard operating procedures in place and are doing all the right things,” he observed. 

“So naturally, you think we will have the best chance of getting through it. Just don’t put your head in the sand and say it’s not going to get here or not going to affect us. That’s the wrong approach.” He advised remaining diligent regarding foot traffic, people traffic, feed truck traffic, and other biosecurity protocols.