On Thursday, Feb. 11, Rep. David Rouzer (NC-7), Chairman of the House Agriculture Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee, held a hearing to examine the preparedness of the United States in the event of the introduction of foot and mouth disease (FMD) into the country. Members heard from a panel of witnesses who shared what steps have been taken and what still needs to be done to achieve the objective of establishing a vaccine stockpile deployable within 24 hours of an outbreak. This hearing is a continuation of the committee's series highlighting the importance of agriculture to national security.

Panel members included:

·         Dr. Jim Roth, Director, Center for Food Security and Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University, Ames, Ia.

·         Dr. Howard Hill, Large Animal Veterinarian, Iowa Falls, Ia.

·         Mr. Steve Parker, Director, Merial Veterinary Public Health, Duluth, Ga.

·         Dr. Cynthia Wolf, Assistant Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn.

·         Dr. David Sjeklocha, Operations Manager of Animal Health & Welfare, Cattle Empire, LLC, Satanta, Kan., on behalf of National Cattleman's Beef Association.

FMD is a highly contagious viral disease that causes illness in cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer, and other animals with cloven hooves. The first goal is to keep FMD out of the United States through monitoring and surveillance activities. However, if an FMD outbreak were to occur, several strategies are available for responding to the outbreak including the use of vaccine. Currently, the amount of vaccine available at the North American FMD Vaccine Bank is below what would be required for an outbreak. The funding USDA has and is receiving for the National Veterinary Stockpile (NVS) is insufficient to provide adequate FMD vaccine stockpiles, which would slow the deployment of a vaccination strategy. Several funding options are under consideration and were discussed in today's hearing.

"The last case of Foot and Mouth Disease in the U.S. was in 1929, which exemplifies how dedicated we have been as an industry to eradicating this catastrophic virus from our country. Even though we do not have FMD here in the U.S., it still occurs in many parts of the world. The USDA, along with its state and industry partners has done a great deal of work to ensure this fast-spreading disease has not come to our shores. FMD would be extremely detrimental to our livestock industry if it were to be introduced into the U.S. and those economic effects would be felt far beyond animal agriculture. I am encouraged by the amount of work government and industry are doing cooperatively to prevent FMD being introduced, and appreciate everyone's willingness to explore options to ensure we have an adequate vaccine stockpile should we ever have to face this viral disease. Thank you to all of our witnesses for sharing with us your expertise on the progress that has been made and sharing improvements that can be explored to better defend against this virus," said Subcommittee Chairman Rouzer.

"Our nation's security depends on our ability to ensure our agriculture industry is safe from threats to animal and plant health. It is essential we have all of the plans and infrastructure in place so we can be suitably prepared against intentional or unintentional introduction of plant or animal pests and disease. FMD is one of those threats and today we heard about our existing preparation, as well as what can still be done to ensure our farmers and ranchers have the proper tools in place to maintain the safety of our industry so they can continue producing food and fiber to meet the nutritional needs of our nation and world," said Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway.

Written testimony provided by the witnesses from today's hearing is linked below. Visit the House Agriculture Committee’s website for more information.