Fostering a New Preparedness Paradigm:
Facilitating a Conversation Among Public and Private Sector Stakeholders
Thinking about a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak is not really high on farmers’ lists of things to do. It’s not on their daily agenda of concerns and issues to deal with and they have plenty of those already. When you do get a discussion going around FMD and farmers realize how real the threat is and how serious the consequences could be, the fear can be almost paralyzing. People really don’t like to think about scary things.
Yet, there is common acknowledgement that we need to be prepared for this sort of thing. Most people figure “the government” will tell them what to do in the event FMD is found in this country. To some extent, that is true. But when you start to delve into the plans and policies in place, given the imperfect and not unlimited resources at the disposal of “the government”, you may begin to wonder whether we can do better.
I set out about six years ago to better understand FMD response plans in the US and the role of farmers in those plans. A lot of effort has gone into addressing issues that would become imminent concerns in the event of an outbreak. A key issue for dairy farmers is whether they would be able to ship their milk. Will customer demand be adversely affected? Will movement controls prevent shipping of milk across state lines?
Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) crisis communications staff and partners in the beef and pork industries have been working hard to understand consumer perception and have messages ready to go to assure consumers that milk and meat products are safe to consume and feed to their children in the event of an FMD outbreak.
National and regional groups have been developing “Secure Milk Supply” plans to facilitate decision-making on movement restrictions. Being able to ship milk is understood to be critical to continuity of business for dairy farms but needs to be done in a way that minimizes the chance of spreading FMD.
As I have participated in exercises and meetings, I have concluded that having farmers at the table is absolutely necessary to make sure their perspective is not overlooked and to drive the discussion towards practical workable solutions. In fact, because I feel it is so important for farmers and their organizations to be involved in FMD planning, I partnered with the National Institute for Animal Agriculture to host a special symposium coming up next month.
The symposium has been designed to facilitate the sharing of perspectives on FMD preparedness and response among stakeholders, particularly on the topic of movement restrictions and permitting. I encourage you, whether you are a livestock farmer, agri-business employee, or food retailer, to join the conversation.
Information and registration can be found at http://www.animalagriculture.org/Solutions/Annual%20Conference/2013/index.html