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Virus killing U.S. piglets probably came from China
Howard Richman, 4/28/2014

Investigators of a new pig virus that is spreading rapidly and killing many piglets are investigating whether that virus came to the U.S. from China. Here's a selection from a Reuter's story (Killer virus spreads unchecked through U.S. hog belt, pushing pork to record):

Months of forensic research so far have turned up no clear evidence of how the disease entered the United States.

The virus is nearly identical to one that infected pigs in China's Anhui province, according to a report published in the American Society of Microbiology journal mBio. Researchers also are exploring whether the widespread use of pig-blood byproducts in hog feed might have introduced the disease.

There have been outbreaks in recent years in Europe, Japan, Mexico and parts of South America, though in milder forms than seen in the U.S. and China.

Investigators may never discover the origin of the virus which first turned up in Ohio and is spreading rapidly. If it turns out that the virus did come to the U.S. from China, it probably arrived accidentally in products shipped to the U.S. from China which were used in animal feed.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture was slow to respond. They let this virus reach epidemic proportions without reacting effectively. Here is a case where meat farmers would have been served through effective federal government regulation. 

In contrast, much of the government regulation that farmers are facing is hurting U.S. agricultural production. Regulation of the byproducts of chicken farming by the EPA is driving some chicken farmers out of business. Excessively high Bureau of Land Management grazing fees appear to be driving Nevada cattle farmers out of business. Diversion of irrigation water to other uses is threatening many California vegetable farmers. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is failing to help American farmers access China's growing market for meat:

  1. As we reported last week, China has been using tariffs and regulatory fiat to keep out U.S. chicken. This is forcing U.S. chicken producers to move their farms and processing plants to China if they wish to access the growing Chinese market.
  2. As reported by Diane Francis in the New York Post in December, a Chinese company recently bought out Smithfield Foods, a leading U.S. pork processing exporter, possibly to gain its state of the art pork processing technology for China.

Government regulation can have a beneficial effect upon an economy, as when regulators prevent animal diseases from spreading. At the moment, however, government regulation of agriculture in the U.S. appears to be doing more harm than good.

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