In mid-March, some cattle in Kansas were discovered with mouth blisters, which led to a scare that foot-and-mouth disease had made its way to the United States. The cattle turned out FMD negative and the whole thing was a false alarm. Still, even an FMD scare sent shock waves through the cattle industry.

Analysts are estimating that a rumor that there was an FMD outbreak among Kansas cattle will cost the cattle industry as much as $50 million nationwide after prices dropped $1.50 per hundredweight for market cattle.

That loss was suffered just because of a rumor of an FMD outbreak. Imagine the costs if an actual outbreak had occurred. Even a contained outbreak would shut down our exports for some period of time. That’s would be the best-case scenario.

The worst-case scenario would be to duplicate the FMD outbreak in Taiwan in 1997. Up to that point, Taiwan was the world’s second largest pork exporter. They have been a net importer of pork ever since.

U.S. pork exports added $6.03 of value to the price of each hog in 2001, according to a National Pork Board release. If exports were completely shut down, even for a short time, the results could be devastating. Shutting down exports for four years would be the death of the industry as we know it. And that doesn’t even take into account the animals that would have to be destroyed to prevent the spread of the disease.

The lesson to take away here is that the high herd health status of the United States is your most valuable tool in promoting U.S. pork worldwide. To maintain this will take constant vigilance and cooperation between all areas of the industry. Also, a public relations plan to help squelch any false rumors of disease outbreaks would also be a good idea. Just ask Kansas cattlemen.