Recognizing the global footprint of the U.S. pork industry and its associated risks, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., got included in the Senate Agriculture Committee’s 2012 Farm Bill a provision that will protect U.S. pork producers should foreign markets close.

Klobuchar’s amendment, cosponsored by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, calls for a study on setting up catastrophic risk management insurance for pork producers to cover input costs lost due to an animal disease or event that could halt exports of U.S. pork.

“The U.S. pork industry thanks Senator Klobuchar for her leadership and is grateful to her for sponsoring this much-needed study,” said R.C. Hunt, a pork producer from Wilson, N.C., and president of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC). “The increased presence of disease, along with increasing international travel and trade that move diseases around the world, have created an unprecedented risk to the U.S. pork industry. Producers need risk-management tools that can protect them should our export markets close. We applaud Senator’s Klobuchar and Grassley for supporting our industry and helping to ensure our jobs are not jeopardized.”

Should they occur in the United States, foreign animal diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), could be catastrophic to U.S. pork exports, Recent FMD outbreaks in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China are sobering reminders of the threat that diseases such as FMD, African swine fever and classical swine fever pose to the United States. While other diseases are significant threats to the U.S. pork industry, it’s FMD that represents the greatest risk to the entire livestock industry.

FMD is highly contagious and infects cloven-hoofed animals including pigs, cattle, sheep, goats, deer and bison. While FMD vaccines are available, successful protection requires that the vaccine be specific to the virus strain that an animal encounters.

The U.S. pork industry in 2011 exported more than $6 billion of product, which accounted for about 27 percent of total production and supported more than 50,000 jobs. But with that success comes additional risk, according to NPPC. Indeed, U.S. pork exports fell in 2009 after 16 years of record exports because of an outbreak in humans of the H1N1 flu virus that was misnamed “swine flu.”

The USDA already has a pilot insurance program for hog producers called Livestock Gross Margin (LGM), but it has a $3 million limit on spending that restricts the number of pigs that any one producer can insure. Additionally, the program now is available only for a six-month period.

The Klobuchar amendment would require USDA to study how a catastrophic event insurance program for pork would be structured.