CHICAGO, March 6 (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Friday it will prohibit shipments of all pigs for at least three days if the nation ever finds a case of a fatal hog disease that has ravaged China's herd.
The federal government is preparing to contain and eradicate African swine fever if it spreads to the United States to avoid the type of devastation seen in China, where the disease has reduced the herd by more than 40% and pushed pork prices to record highs. Since the China outbreak, African swine fever has broken out in 10 countries in Asia.
Containing the virus is important for U.S. farmers and meat processors like Tyson Foods Inc and WH Group Ltd's Smithfield Foods Inc because an outbreak would shut the $7 billion export market for American pork.
The USDA would stop the transportation of pigs if the United States detects a case in an effort to stop the disease from spreading, the agency said in a statement. The halt would prevent farmers from delivering pigs to slaughterhouses where they are turned into bacon and pork chops.
With no vaccine or cure available for African swine fever, experts recommend that infected pigs and others housed in the same barn be culled. The USDA said the best options for disposing of dead pigs would be to bury them on farms or turn them into compost.
"USDA plans to pay for virus elimination at a uniform, flat rate, based on the size of affected premises," the agency said. (Reporting by Tom Polansek; editing by Jonathan Oatis)