DES MOINES, IOWA – Which public official would be in charge in the event of a foot-and-mouth disease (F.M.D.) outbreak in the U.S.? What would happen to farmers in the outbreak area and where would farmers go for information?

This and more was asked at World Pork Expo in Des Moines on June 8, where more than 80 attendees representing production agriculture, law enforcement, media and state and federal governments participated in a Pork Checkoff-sponsored table-top exercise based on a simulated F.M.D. outbreak.

Although the U.S. has not had an F.M.D. case since 1929, recent outbreaks in Japan and elsewhere have brought renewed attention to the need to be vigilant, said Patrick Webb, a veterinarian and director of swine health programs for the Pork Checkoff. Webb said exercises such as the one conducted on June 8 are based on scenarios that require participants to make decisions and to move equipment and animals on a scale model of a small town and surrounding farms.

"We know from experience that each decision the participants make and each movement of resources on the table creates new challenges that must be solved," Webb said. "We've found that it is a very effective way to demonstrate the importance of planning, preparedness and surveillance."

The table-top drill is conducted by the Pork Checkoff for law enforcement, government officials, media members and representatives from agriculture throughout the country.

"I know every time I participate in an F.M.D. drill I realize just how devastating an F.M.D. outbreak would be to me as a pork producer, and to all livestock producers in the U.S.," said Jim Niewold, a pork producer from Loda, Ill., and chairman of the Pork Checkoff's Swine Health Committee. "By practicing how we would respond, I feel like we, as an industry, are better prepared and have plans in place should we ever have F.M.D. in this country.”

"The Pork Checkoff provided this drill to help all pork producers understand the important role for producers in being prepared and knowing how to respond in the event of a foreign-animal disease outbreak, such as F.M.D.," said Tim Bierman, a Larrabee, Iowa, pork producer and president of the National Pork Board, who has also participated in a number of the drills.