KANSAS CITY (B)--One way that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is enforcing its tougher pseudorabies eradication policy is through offenders' wallets.
The agency recently levied fines against at least two hog producers totaling $5,000 for violating herd movement, testing and vaccination codes. Several cases are pending, said Ron Rowland, the department's regulatory division director.
Pseudorabies causes reproductive problems and occasional deaths in finishing hogs but poses no threat to humans. Last spring, the disease flared up in the country's largest hog producing state following a milder-than-usual winter.
Iowa's agriculture secretary and the state's legislature responded in April by pushing for stronger measures to arrest the virus through increased detection, monitoring and vaccination.
The department's authority to levy fines has been on the books since a joint federal, state and producer-assisted pseudorabies law was enacted nearly a decade ago. Penalties were "discreetly and quietly" meted out until a few months ago when the agency began publicizing violations to show how serious it was about enforcing the law, said Rowland. This may encourage producers to voluntarily comply so they do not find themselves in trouble during what some consider the final stages of eradication.
He pointed out, however, that compliance does not necessarily involve monetary fines, but offers the agency a chance to educate producers about what's required under the new law and urge hog farmers to follow through. "Ongoing monitoring finds most producers are in compliance and step up to the plate, while some are not."
According to Rowland, the District Court of Plymouth County recently found New Elm Spring Colony, located in South Dakota, in violation of Iowa's vaccination, restricted movement and testing requirements, and ordered it to pay $2,500 in civil penalties.
Another case, which also cost a producer $2,500, involved Consolidated Nutrition of Omaha, Neb. The firm was penalized for not vaccinating and testing its hogs "in a timely manner" before shipping them to Iowa.
Rowland estimated that three or four other cases are being reviewed, primarily for vaccination and movement compliance issues. The statue will remain in effect, and subject to changes, until the Iowa legislature reconvenes in early January 2001--a time when state veterinary and agriculture officials hope to see a significant drop in the number of infected herds.
He and others believe Iowa has been unjustly criticized as "laggards" in ridding itself of the disease. Rowland said the state cleaned up more pseudorabies than all other states combined because of its ranking as the No. 1 U.S. hog producer.
What's more, Iowa not only is home to several large-scale swine units, but thousands of small family farms also are located in close proximity, increasing the chance of a disease spread.
As of June 1 of this year, pseudorabies was detected in more than 564 Iowa hog herds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In July, Iowa's state veterinarian, John Schiltz, told BridgeNews then that the number of pseudorabies herds in Iowa had stabilized, and it would be at least two months before a downward trend would develop. Rowland puts the current figure at 481 herds.