Certainly if avian flu finds its way to U.S. shores, agriculture as a whole could feel the pain, according to a Department of Homeland Security official. In a presentation to the Texas Cattle Feeders Association, John Hoffman said such things as moving agricultural equipment and products would be impacted if a quarantine was needed to address avian flu.
This means moving swine- and more specifically, weaned pigs-could become problematic.
The areas near poultry farms are the most at risk. The southeast is a big poultry area, and North Carolina, of course is a big hog area. Often overlooked is the fact that Minnesota is a major turkey producing states, as well as hogs.
When the system backs up everyone feels it, Hoffman said. "But the severity of the slowdown would depend on the level of the outbreak."
The United States has dealt with avian flu episodes before. In 2002, Virginia has a case that involved some 190 farms, and involved the destruction of 5 million birds.
Two outbreaks occurred last year in Texas. In that particular case, the strain-- H5N2-- was the first time in 20 years that such a highly contagious and severe form of the virus surfaced in the United States. This year's strain of concern is H5NI, which has not been detected in the United States.
While no one wants to see avian flu on U.S. soil, and the hope is that it will stay away. But wishing and hoping aren't effective business strategies. Anyone who depends on moving pigs, whether it's to other production or marketing sites, better develop a backup plan on where to take those pigs if an avian flu quarantine shuts down or even slows your movement options.