Sens. Kay Hagan, D-N.C. and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Thursday urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to approve disaster assistance for small pork producers affected by Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus.
PEDV has killed more than four million pigs nationwide since April 2013, with significant implications for the agricultural economy, the Senators say.
The new farm bill, which permanently extends critical livestock disaster assistance programs, could help producers in 26 states control and cope with the disease.
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"Pork producers that have been impacted by PEDv face economic devastation, these producers are finally experiencing periods of higher margins after prolonged periods of razor thin profits. If this disease persists, pork herds will continue to diminish and producers risk going out of business," the Senators wrote in a letter to Secretary Vilsack.
More research funding
Additionally, the Senators asked the USDA to increase research for a vaccine and other interventions to address PEDv, for which no vaccine or treatment currently exists.
Senators say the unmitigated spread of PEDv poses a serious threat to the agricultural economy; the pork industry supports nearly 550,000 jobs across the country and contributes $34.5 billion to the U.S. economy.
PEDv has a reported mortality rate of nearly 100% for piglets under two weeks old and ultimately kills 50% to 80% of all newborn and suckling pigs.