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Letter: Farm bill would create much-needed Foot-and-Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank

Cattle producers across North Dakota are awaiting the 2018 farm bill. The legislation authorizes many programs designed to support farmers and ranchers. But one new provision deserves special attention: the creation of a Foot-and-Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank.

Cattle producers are all too familiar with the potential consequences of a disease outbreak. In 2001, producers in the United Kingdom suffered severe financial losses after FMD spread. The disease does not impact human safety or the safety of our food supply, but the consequences are severe for animal agriculture and the economy. By the time the English FMD outbreak was over, 6 million animals were dead, and the United Kingdom suffered losses of more than $16 billion.

I run a cow-calf and feeding operation near Streeter, N.D. Like other producers, I strive to provide the best possible care for my cattle every day. Still, the efforts of dedicated individuals may not be enough in the case of a national outbreak.

Current capabilities to procure FMD vaccines in the U.S. would cover only a fraction of the amount needed to effectively respond to an outbreak. That could cost us dearly. One recent study by Iowa State University concluded that an uncontained FMD outbreak would cause losses to the beef and pork sectors of more than $128 billion over 10 years. Corn and soybean farmers would also take a hit, losing $44 billion and $25 billion, respectively.

The 2018 Farm Bill provides Congress with an opportunity to improve the status quo. Current language under consideration would authorize the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create a national FMD Vaccine Bank capable of responding to a national outbreak.

Erbele runs a cow-calf and feeding operation near Streeter, N.D. He currently serves as the Animal Health Committee chairman of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association.

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