More than 60 federal, state and local agency officials and academic and industry professionals met on June 15 to participate in a mock animal disease emergency response exercise hosted by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship with the support of the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
“Unfortunately, Iowa saw firsthand how devastating an animal health emergency can be with the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreak that severely impacted our poultry industry in 2015,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. “The department has made it a priority to take the lessons learned from that disaster and help us be better prepared should we have to deal with another event in the future. This exercise was another step in that process and I greatly appreciate all the stakeholders from across the state that participated.”
The tabletop exercise was designed to help test response capabilities and review the department’s updated Foot-and-Mouth Disease Response Plan that was completed this spring. Foot and Mouth Disease is a highly contagious viral disease of livestock that affects cattle, swine, sheep, goats and other cloven-hoofed ruminants. This disease is not transmissible to humans and there are no food safety concerns with the disease.
This all-day exercise allowed leaders in industry, academia and government to talk through the plan and process of preventing, detecting and responding to various scenarios involving an outbreak response.
“We greatly appreciate the leadership by the department to develop this plan and continue the process by holding this exercise so we can continue to learn and improve,” said Pat McGonegle, CEO of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, who participated in the exercise.
A Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak has the potential to be devastating to the Iowa and national economy. Iowa is the number one pork producing state in the nation and 4th in beef production. The milk goat inventory is 3rd in the nation and the state is 9th in all sheep and lamb inventory. Our state also has more than 200,000 dairy cows and is in the top 15 nationally for milk production. Livestock feed is the top customer of both corn and soybeans, so grain farmers also would be significantly impacted if the disease is found.
The Center for Food Safety and Public Health at Iowa State University coordinated the development of the updated response plan. The exercise was organized/conducted by SES, Inc. out of Merriam, Kansas, which provided facilitators and evaluators to document discussion; resolve questions; and advise on plans, policies and procedures.