Concerns about African swine fever (ASF) and other foreign animal diseases were overshadowed in recent months by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and U.S. elections.

But the threat of ASF entering the U.S. swine herd hasn’t gone away.

The National Pork Board (NPB), in response, rolled out a new software program, AgView, designed to contain a foreign animal disease outbreak and minimize its impact on the nation’s pork industry.

NPB leaders Dave Pyburn, senior vice president of science and technology, and Cindy Cunningham, assistant vice president of communications, discussed the threat of foreign animal diseases and the new AgView system during an interview with the RFD Radio Network.

“As we talk about foreign animal disease response, preparedness and prevention, the No. 1 issue and priority for us right now is African swine fever,” Pyburn said.

And for good reason. ASF decimated swine herds in China, and the Philippines and spread to other locations including Russia, Romania, Poland and more recently Germany.

USDA previously estimated pork production in China could decline by more than 33% this year while pork imports there could more than double 2018 amounts due to the ASF outbreak.

“They do not have this under control yet (in China),” Pyburn said. “They are still having outbreaks, especially in more backyard farm-type situations.”

Elsewhere, the outbreak of ASF in Germany remains in feral swine only. But it still devastated the commercial industry financially.

“Even though the disease is not in the commercial industry and only in feral swine (in Germany), it’s still shut off global (pork) trade except with EU partners,” Pyburn said. “It’s had an immense effect on prices in that country.”

NPB hopes to prevent any possible foreign animal disease outbreaks in the U.S. through biosecurity but, if such an outbreak occurs, pork industry leaders hope to contain it through measures including the new AgView tool.

AgView, set for launch Nov. 9, is a software program created with checkoff dollars to help farmers, USDA and state animal health officials track animal movements to rapidly contain a disease outbreak.

Pig farmers are encouraged to voluntarily enter information about their herds into the AgView system beginning Nov. 9. More information about the system can be obtained from state pork associations, including the Illinois Pork Producers Association, or at NPB’s website.

“We’re excited the program is available,” Cunningham said of the AgView system. “We hope it’s an insurance policy we never need to use.”

The data dashboard system would help contain a foreign animal disease outbreak by isolating herd locations and limiting animal movements in effected areas to prevent spreading the disease.

“If we have an outbreak here, we want to make sure animal movements are under control. We don’t want to move the virus around,” Pyburn said. “We need to find the disease quickly, if one breaks here, and work to get back to business continuity in areas that don’t have the disease.”