African Swine Fever, water quality progress, and partnering with Fareway to celebrate meat: The Spokesman Speaks Podcast, Episode 21
Listen to The Spokesman Speaks Podcast in your favorite podcast app
Welcome to Episode 21 of The Spokesman Speaks podcast. In this episode, Dr. Andrew Hennenfent of the Iowa Department of Land Stewardship (IDALS) talks about efforts to prevent African Swine Fever from reaching Iowa; Farm Bureau's environmental policy advisor Rick Robinson shares the latest on Iowa's water quality progress; and Fareway's Senior Vice President of Merchandising Mike McCormick talks about a brand new partnership between Fareway and the Iowa Farm Bureau to promote meat, milk, eggs, and Iowa's livestock farmers. To learn more about the contest and enter to win a $200 meat bundle from your local Fareway, visit
- Click here to view the transcript +
Narrator: Since 1934, Iowa's farmers have turned to the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman as their trusted news source. Now, The Spokesmen Speaks. Listen in and hear from leading experts on topics important to farmers and agriculture. Now here's your host, Laurie Johns. .
Laurie Johns: Welcome to The Spokesman Speaks Podcast. This is our September 9th edition. We always have great info from experts in a variety of fields, don't miss your chance to learn from them. Even if you've missed a previous Spokesman Speaks Podcast, you can find all our past episodes listed in your favorite podcast apps, including Apple Podcast, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, and more. So if you've got a long car ride somewhere or you find yourself with some downtime, be sure to check it out. This week's podcast episode includes information for livestock farmers, hog farmers in particular. You've probably heard about African Swine Fever. The damage this virus can do is serious. In fact, in China, this virus has killed more pigs than we even raise in this country. African Swine Fever isn't in the U.S. right now, but don't wait to educate yourself about it. And on that note, Dr. Andrew Hennenfent is a Veterinarian and Emergency Management Coordinator for Animal Health for the Iowa Department of Agriculture. Your Spokesman Editor Dirck Steimel interviewed Dr. Hennenfent about this dangerous swine fever virus. The goal is to help Iowa farmers guard against it. So let's listen in on that interview. .
Dirck Steimel: Okay, Dr. Hennenfent, let's start with the basics. What is African Swine Fever? How does it affect swine? Is it dangerous for humans and where is it being reported now? .
Dr. Hennenfent: So African Swine Fever is a virus in pigs. It only affects pigs, so there's no human health concerns for people. But what the virus does is it gets into their white blood cells, spreads throughout their body, gets in all their different body tissues. So that makes it challenging to control, cause it can be in the meat products for extended periods of time can even survive being cured in hams. So in countries where it's very common for folks to feed table scraps to pigs, that really perpetuates the virus and spreads it from pig to pig. It originated in Africa in the early 20th century. In Africa, it's transmitted between ticks and pigs. So it doesn't make the ticks sick or the wild warthogs or anything like that, but then once it spills over into domestic pigs, it makes them very sick. And about a year ago, it spread to China. And since then it's been reported that it may have led to the deaths of half the Chinese national herd. Which, just to put it in perspective, in China, they have likely lost more pigs than we have in the entire United States. And since then, about a year ago when it started in China, it's been spreading through much of the rest of Asia. And recently there's been reports that it might even have spread to the Philippines. .
Dirck Steimel: What are the key steps that Iowa farmers can take to prevent the introduction and potential spread of African Swine Fever? .
Dr. Hennenfent: So the thing that we like to encourage our producers in Iowa, regardless of what animals that they're raising, is to practice good biosecurity. So one of the ways this African Swine Fever has spread so widely in addition to people feeding table scraps to pigs, which is not legal in Iowa and much of the United States, is the virus can survive a long time outside of a pig. So people can carry it very easily on their clothes, their hands, their equipment from one farm to another. That's true of a lot of diseases that we have here already as well, such as PRRS and other viruses that can move between pig herds. So what we want folks to do is just always be aware of who's going on and off their farms, to not share equipment between farms and to practice good biosecurity, whether that's a shower in, shower out facility or foot baths, changing clothes between facilities. And that's true of on the farm and when folks are going on the show route, which just ended this summer as well. So just always being aware of what could, even if you can't see it, what you could potentially be carrying back to your pigs or other animals that could make them sick. .
Dirck Steimel: What actions are the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and other agencies that you cooperate with, what actions are they taking to prevent the introduction of this disease? .
Dr. Hennenfent: So at the federal level, USDA, they've implemented a lot more import requirements on pork products, things along those lines. So countries where they're having active outbreaks of African Swine Fever, they've really tightened up what products can come into the United States. And then to address any potential traveler that might accidentally bring a pork sandwich or sausage or something that they've gotten abroad just for their own lack of understanding that it could carry it. They have increased the number of beagles at the ports of entry in the U.S. so as people get off flights they have what they call the Beagle Patrols. They're sniffing travelers bags and stuff as they come through looking for pork products and other things. And that's not only extending to pork products, but they, that's always been in place for produce, things along those lines. Just things that could carry anything in that could affect U.S. Agriculture. But they've increased those number of beagles since the African Swine Fever first hit China about a year ago.
Dirck Steimel: And IDALS?
Dr. Hennenfent: So what we're doing here in the state is we've tried to increase the awareness among our producers. We've hosted a variety of workshops throughout the state for at both the producer level as well with our federal and other state partners. Upcoming here in September, we're having a four day exercise where we'll have people out in the field playing through a mock scenario and we'll go there every aspect of that. And then we've also tightened up some of our health requirements around the show season in Iowa as well. So there was the requirements for when a veterinary had to inspect to animals before they could go to a county fair. The state fair were shortened this year from 30 days to seven days. And then at the State Fair IDALS veterinarians were there every time pigs were coming in, looking at them on the trailers to make sure they're healthy before they entered the fairgrounds. .
Dirck Steimel: How can Iowa pig raisers and others in the state stay informed about the disease and steps to prevent African Swine Fever? .
Dr. Hennenfent: So the best way to stay informed about African Swine Fever and the newest developments is to keep an eye out on our press releases on the Iowa Department of Agriculture webpage. Also, your local extension offices, the Farm Bureau communications folks, so your guys' communications, the Iowa Pork Producers Association is a great resource as well, as well as the National Pork Board. .
Dirck Steimel: Are there lessons that IDALS and others have learned from the Avian Flu outbreak a few years ago that can be used to address the potential of African Swine Fever? .
Dr. Hennenfent: Yes, most definitely. So one of the big lessons learned from the Avian Influenza outbreak of 2015 was how much animals move now in modern production agriculture practices. So one of the things that looking back on it allowed Avian Influenza kind of spread so rapidly throughout much of the United States is birds moving from one site to the other. So what we've learned from that that we're taking away for future outbreaks to prepare is pausing all animal movements for the animal that could get that disease in the very beginning of the outbreak. So we can do our investigations in conjunction with USDA to figure out which areas have been exposed, which haven't. So then we can concentrate control efforts on those areas and let everyone else go back to movements as normal as they could be after disease is broken in the U.S. .
Laurie Johns: From one serious topic, protecting livestock, to another, protecting the watersheds in this state. Many people, not just farmers, pay attention to stories about conservation and water quality. The big question on everyone's mind, what progress are we making in the nation's top agriculture state to improve water quality? We have come a long way and we have got a long way to go, but there's plenty of good news out there and chances are you haven't heard it yet. Farm Bureau's Environmental Policy Advisor and Conservation Guru Rick Robinson breaks it down for us. .
Rick Robinson: It's really an unprecedented public policy for the state of Iowa in terms of soil and water conservation protection. It's the most significant public policy in my 32 years working at Farm Bureau. We've got a phenomenal, unprecedented awareness programs, participation, outreach ongoing at this time. And these are just the initial years and what we're doing is kind of figuring out where we're at and analyzing where we need to get to. And so far we've got at least 84 different projects ongoing in terms of nutrient reduction and demonstration and implementation. We've got over 250 organizations participating in those projects and there's $80 million worth of state and federal and local funding supporting those projects. So again, unprecedented initial success. .
Laurie Johns: Okay. So there are a lot of projects going on with are steadily making a difference in watersheds across the state. Measurement is the issue. And remember, scientists measure progress with the help of a tool they developed. They call it the logic model. It's an approach that helps them look at many aspects of conservation. Right, Rick? .
Rick Robinson: We know that there's a lot of work to do. And it will take time. We even talk in terms of decades to achieve those kinds of goals. So the logic model, what it does, it kind of breaks the whole issue down into components of inputs, human indicators of desirable change, changes in the landscape, and then changes in water quality. So you kind of need the first things before you get the last things. And so right now, in the initial years, the focus is on the inputs, the, you know, the amount of dollars, frankly, the amount of manpower, the hours, the number of projects, the inventories that we're doing and then the number of organizations involved and the number of agencies working on these kinds of things. So kind of setting up the whole approach and so the focus is on those things that we can measure, like number of projects, number of farmers participating, the number of practices out there in the landscape and how those change over time. And once we have a system that documents those kinds of things over time, we can expect to see changes on the land at a statewide scale. We can expect to see changes in water quality at a statewide scale. Initially we're going to see changes at a plot scale and a farm scale much sooner but, but over the course of a long period of time, we're going to see those changes and meet those goals of the Iowa nutrient reduction strategy and cutting nutrient delivery to the Gulf of Mexico. We've had 150 fold increase in cover crops in the last 10 years and most of that really just coming in the last five years of the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy. We've had as many as 8,000 farmers participating in and nutrient reducing technologies and cost share programs, trying out some of the cover crops and no-till strip till and nitrogen reducing technologies on their farms. We've got more than 76 research projects that are ongoing or have been completed so far in the state of Iowa, research that will lead to new technologies to help us do better in the future. We've got over 154 municipal and industrial waste treatment plants that are analyzing their permits. They're analyzing their nutrient reduction technologies and more than 40 have already committed to new technology at those plants that will reduce nitrogen and phosphorous into receiving streams from the outfalls of these plants. We've got a new inventory of the phosphorus reducing practices in the state of Iowa, first of its kind approach using LiDAR and aerial photography to get a better sense of what's out there in the landscape. And how has that changed over time. We also have a new survey method working with agribusiness retailers and certified crop advisors to get records from farmers and what they're doing on their farms in terms of the tillage and nutrient management practices. So those are just some of the initial highlights I would say, of the Nutrient Reduction Strategy in the first five years. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources conducted a best management practice mapping project. So what they did, they took LiDAR and aerial photography and looked at a baseline period in the 2000s and went back and compared that to the 1980s and they identified over $6.2 billion of mostly phosphorous reducing technologies of structures like terraces, like grass, waterways, like sediment control basins, those kinds of practices and identified them as existing during that, that baseline period of 2007 and 2010. So by the time the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy had actually started in 2012, we'd already had a 22% reduction in phosphorus loadings in Iowa. And that's primarily due to the adoption of no-till, strip till, soil erosion practices that have been focused on during that period of time. And so that's tremendous progress. That's a great sign for the future. We know that we can make additional progress using the lessons learned from that focus on phosphorus reduction and apply that to nitrogen reduction. And so that's kind of the thought. Now on the nitrogen side of the equation during that baseline comparison, we found that from the 1980 and 1996 baseline period, nitrogen loadings actually went up a little bit about 5% during that period of time. But we had increased corn acres during that period of time. So it's not totally surprising, but again, we're going to apply the lessons learned on the phosphorus side of the equation to the nitrogen side of the equation going forward. And we're very encouraged that we're going to see that kind of progress over time on the nitrogen side as well. And one other big point is that Iowa now has its own sustainable funding stream for these programs going forward. The Iowa legislature has approved $270 million over the next 11 years for these nutrient reducing practices and programs. And that's ramping up very quickly here in the next two years and will be sustainable for the next 11 years. This is a phenomenal, unprecedented effort that I have not seen in my professional career in 32 years. It's the most significant soil and water conservation sustainable program that the state of Iowa has funded in that period of time. There's gonna be new, exciting things happening, new technologies that will be developed, new practices that come along the way. We've already had one, saturated buffer and edge of field practice that wasn't around a few years ago. Some of these practices are still expensive and so that's why the sustainable funding stream is important to the adoption of these practices. Many of these practices that are gonna reduce nutrients and nutrient delivery to our Iowa streams into the Gulf of Mexico, frankly benefit users downstream. They don't necessarily have a return to the farm as much. And so the notion is that the state of Iowa has skin in the game. All Iowans have skin in this game. And so state funding is important to get the edge of field practices, the bioreactors, the saturated buffers, the restored wetlands that we need on the landscape to get that a 45% reduction and delivery to the Gulf of Mexico. .
Laurie Johns: So you've heard it here. $6.2 billion spent so far has moved the needle in phosphorus reduction. Yes, farmers are committed and are making progress in reducing nitrogen. They're embracing that challenge and if you're one of those farmers putting in new conservation practices, remember, talk about it. Share your story is folks who don't farm like to hear that and they certainly need to hear that. And here's something else everyone likes to hear. How about winning a chance to Fill Your Freezer with free meat? Iowa Farm Bureau has partnered with Fareway Grocery Stores to launch our big Real Farmers Real Food Real Meat campaign. Maybe you've seen the Real Meat trucks featuring Iowa farmers rolling down the highways or the interstates> We recently kicked off our Real Farmers Real Food Real Meat program and the Fill Your Freezer giveaway. Mike McCormick, Fareway Executive, was that the event along with dozens of Farm Bureau farmers including Randy Christensen. Randy and his family are one of several farmers you'll see on those Fareway Trucks. You know, I remember as a farm kid growing up in Eagle Grove, if you wanted good meat, you headed to the Fareway Store in town. That's a rule that folks still live by all across this state. Fareway is an Iowa based company with 81 years of community support in this state. Fareway's Mike McCormick says it's that history and their deep respect for Iowa livestock farmers that brought this whole campaign together. He talked to our Zach Bader about the campaign and more at the big real meat kickoff event in Greene County. .
Mike McCormick: The meat department at Fareway is what it's all about. It's what makes Fareway special. We do it different than anybody else. So that tie in was a natural one for us at Fareway. And so excited to kick that off. Kick this program off with the five truck wraps. We're rolling, you know, with this event, we're also kicking off a Fill Your Freezer bundle promotion with Farm Bureau. So at all 107 Fareway locations in Iowa, one customer has the opportunity to win a $200 fresh meat bundle. So that's a really exciting promotion for us. It gets everybody involved across the state of Iowa, everybody has to win. So we're super excited about that. That's kicking off this week and then goes all the way through the month of September. .
Zach Bader: And anything else that you can kind of let people know that they might be seeing in their local stores coming up here? .
Mike McCormick: Sure. As part of the contest we'll have special signage at the markets, the meat markets at all of our Iowa stores and our digital screens there'll be a call out for this Fill Your Freezer bundle promotion. So our website will have that. And will be promoting on our social media as well as tied into the Farm Bureau social media. So we're excited that these are just coming the first steps hopefully with Farm Bureau and that we can continue to grow this partnership. .
Laurie Johns: Zach also spoke with Randy Christensen about what it's like to be one of those farmers involved in the Real Farmers Real Food Real Meat campaign. .
Zach Bader: Randy, first of all, how did this come to be here? How did you get to be a part of this campaign and how do you feel about being kind of the face of this new campaign we got going? .
Randy Christensen: I was on the county Farm Bureau board for several years and kind of got to working with Farm Bureau on projects like this, the Coalition. They contacted my wife Jenny and I and wanted to know if we wanted to be a part of it. We're proud to be part of it, we're proud to raise a quality product for Iowa and the nation. It's a great honor to showcase what we do with Fareway and the Farm Bureau and then let people know too how we do and that we take great pride in what we do. .
Zach Bader: Why is it do you think a campaign like this is important? Obviously we're emphasizing things like the nutrition of meat, the care that farmers take caring for the environment or care for their animals. Why do you think that's a critical thing right now? .
Randy Christensen: 2% of the Americans are farmers and we're feeding there 98%. We need to get our story out so they know that what we do for a living not only affects their family, but also affects our family. You know, we're producing our kids eat the same meat that we send to these stores and that we take great pride in what we're doing. We need to get the story out that we do care. We do work hard. We have a lot of pride in what we do. Not only do we work for ourselves, we also work for the entire country. .
Zach Bader: What would you, is there some kind of message that you'd like consumers to be aware of? Like what do you want them to know about the pork that you're producing in the way you're doing that? What would be a quick elevator pitch for them about what you're doing and why you're doing it? .
Randy Christensen: You know, we take great pride in producing quality products. The motto that I grew up on a farrow to finish farm. So the motto my folks taught me, and I teach my kids, you do chores and take care of animals before you have your own breakfast and before you have supper. So on the farm, the animals are the number one thing we take care of. We take great pride in that. We follow all the safety rules. We make sure that the product that we produce meets all the safety requirements they need to. It's a quality product. So when you get that pork chop, it's gonna taste the same all the time. So we take great pride and put a lot of hard work into what we do. .
Laurie Johns: And hey, that reminds me if you see one of those Real Farmers Real Food Real Meat trucks driving by or parked at your local Fareway Store, take a photo and when you get a chance to pull over, remember folks, don't text and drive, be sure to share that photo on your social media pages. Because good news is always welcome. Am I right? And if you'd like the chance to Fill Your Freezer with free meat, you can either look for the signs about the contest your local Fareway Store or you can log on to iowafarmbureau.com and hit the Fill Your Freezer logo. You'll find it right there on the page. It'll take you right to that contest where you answer five questions so you can enter your chance to win an ultimate meat package from your local Fareway Store. Now those questions are designed to help everyone learn about the nutritional benefits of meat, dairy, and eggs, as well as how Iowa's livestock farmers like you are caring for the animals and the land. One winner from each of Fareway’s 107 Iowa stores will get that package valued at $200 free. Meat and free knowledge about Iowa livestock farming. Hey, talk about a win-win. That's all for this week's Spokesman Speaks. Until next time, thanks for reading The Spokesman. Thanks for all the great stories and the inspiration and thanks for listening to The Spokesman Speaks.
Narrator: Thank you for listening to The Spokesman Speaks, a podcast by Iowa Farm Bureau. Check out more podcasts and articles from The Spokesman at IowaFarmBureau.com/Spokesman. You can also find and subscribe to The Spokesman Speaks Podcast in the Apple Podcasts app, Google Play, and other popular podcast apps. We appreciate your ratings and reviews and welcome your feedback at Podcast@ifbf.org.
About The Spokesman Speaks Podcast
Since 1934, The Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman has been Iowa’s leading agriculture news source, and today it is the largest circulation ag newspaper in Iowa. While the Spokesman newspaper is available exclusively to Iowa Farm Bureau members, The Spokesman Speaks podcast is available publicly, reaching farmers on-the-go with stories that matter to them. You can find episodes of the podcast here or subscribe and listen in your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, TuneInRadio, or Radio.com.
We release new podcast episodes every other Monday. Episode 22 will be released on September 23, 2019.
Want more news on this topic? Farm Bureau members may subscribe for a free email news service, featuring the farm and rural topics that interest them most!