The 2014 Farm Bill, signed into law last month, permanently extends critical livestock disaster assistance that could help producers in North Carolina, Michigan and 24 other states cope with the virus. Senators Kay Hagan (North Carolina) and Debbie Stabenow (Michigan) sent a letter March 13 to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and asked him to approve disaster assistance for small pork producers.

“Pork producers that have been impacted by PEDv face economic devastation, these producers are finally experiencing periods of higher margins after prolonged periods of razor thin profits. If this disease persists, pork herds will continue to diminish and producers risk going out of business,” the letter says.

The letter asks USDA to increase research for a vaccine and other interventions to address PEDv, for which no vaccine or treatment currently exists.

PEDv poses a serious threat to the agricultural economy. The pork industry supports 550,000 jobs across the country and contributes $34.5 billion to the U.S. economy. PEDv has a reported mortality rate of nearly 100 percent for piglets under two weeks old and ultimately kills 50 percent to 80 percent of all newborn and suckling pigs.

Older feeder or grower pigs are more capable of fighting the virus, suffering only a 1 percent to 3 percent death rate. The virus has occurred in Europe and Asia, but last spring was the first instance of PEDv in the United States.