If you need more incentive to increase your biosecurity expenditures, look no further than U.S. pork exports. With more than 20 percent of U.S. production heading overseas, reducing the risk of market interruptions is more important than ever.

That means transport biosecurity is an increasingly important issue. “The consequences of export interruption have never been higher,” says Steve Meyer, president of Paragon Economics.

He points to record levels of U.S. pork exports, record feed prices and the volume of hogs shipped on the road in any given day. “We have a lot of feeder pigs that flow from the Carolinas and Oklahoma into the Corn Belt, a lot of market hogs moving west to California, as well as from Michigan into Indiana and Ohio,” Meyer says. “Managing and controlling disease has become much more valuable because of the value of inputs alone,” he says.

Now, add in the fact that some disease issues would quickly shut down export markets, and the incentive is clear. “The big risk to the pork industry is in export interruption,” Meyer says. “We’re on track to export 4.7 billion pounds of pork in 2008. That’s over 50 percent more than a year ago and over 20 percent of our entire production.” The larger those export figures become, the more important transport biosecurity is to the pork industry.

If exports suddenly stopped, it could be financially catastrophic for the industry. Retail prices would fall about 27 percent. In the last year, retail pork prices averaged about $2.88 per pound. Without exports, prices would easily drop to $2 per pound. That may not sound like much, but it would trickle down. For example, producers have faced a 25 percent to 30 percent equity loss since last September.

“If exports ended, pork producers could face 70 percent or more in lost equity,” Meyer warns.