There may not be enough pigs in the world to make up for the losses that Chinaand the rest of Asiais about to suffer from a new outbreak of African swine fever.

For consumers, it means the price of bacon andother pork productswillspike. For farmers like me, it means that well continueto focus on doing what is neededto guarantee the health of our animals with strong safety measures.

No one in our global economyis immune to whatshappening. In the United States, the National Pork Producers Council cancelled this years World Pork Expo, a major event that draws thousands of visitors to Iowa.

We have decided to exercise extreme caution, said NPPC president David Herring, a pork producer in North Carolina. The health of the U.S. swine herd is paramount.

Thelatest eruption of African swine feverwas first reported last year in China, home to 433 million pigs, the worlds largest population. Some experts estimate that the country could lose up to half of themthrough mortality and preventative culling. Thatsalmost the combined size of thepig populationsin theEuropean Union(150 million) andthe United States (73 million).

What may be theonly good news is that our food is safe toeat.African swine fever poses no risk to human health. Although this viral disease can devastate herds of pigs, both on farms and in the wild, it doesnt transfer to people.There should be no concern to purchase pork to be enjoyed by your family safely.

Annechien’s family farm received national recognition as Agricultural Entrepreneur of the Year 2019.

Even so, the disease presents a hugeproblemfor agriculture.Itwillpush upconsumer prices,complicatetrade,andthreaten the livelihoods of pork producers.

Here in the Netherlands, my familyearns a living by raisingpork. We have 600 sows and 5,600 finishers (i.e., meat pigs in preparation for the market). Last year we introduced our consumer brand,Hamletz, which is known for its commitment to animal welfare as well as its distinctively good taste, which is partly the result of special feed wegrowon our farm. InMarch, our farm received national recognition as Agricultural Entrepreneur of the Year 2019.

African swine fever hasnt touched our farm and we plan to keep it that waybut we also know that pork producers are vulnerable no matter where they live. The outbreak in China has entered neighboring Vietnam and could spread throughout Southeast Asia. Its endemic in Russia and parts of Eastern Europe. Last September, the outbreak was discovered among wild boars in Belgium, which iscomingdistressingly close to our own operations.

We monitor the health of our herd closely. We take blood samples monthly and veterinarians come by routinely.Because there is a concern that infected pork in feed could be spreading the disease, we are very careful to make sure our pigs are not fed anything that might be questioned.Andalthough pigs have a reputation for rolling around indirt andmud, weinsistonstandards of cleanliness:Visitorsto our farmmust take showersand wear clothesprovided by our farmbefore we let them see our swine.

Ifwe have a suspicion of disease, wejump intoaction, includingan emergency number to call. The Dutch government is ready to respond with biosafety protocols. In the event of anAfrican swine feveroutbreak, our country will divide into regions for the purpose of containment, with a goal of keeping the disease away from uninfected farms.

The one thing we cant control as well as wed like is the wild boar population. Theyre allowed in only two areasof the Netherlands, but they have a habit of escapingand expanding their territory. Whenspottedoutside of thesezones, they should be shot immediately.

Our countryhas suffered in the past from African swine fever: In the late 1990s,pork producershad toreducetheirherdsby2 million hogs. It took the industry a decade to recover.

This years outbreak already has caused pork prices to rise to their highest level in several years. All signs suggest that theyll go higher still. This creates an economic opportunity for our farm, and well take advantage of it. Yet were wary of disruptions. Wed prefer a stable market withhealthy pigs andreliable prices, rather than dramatic fluctuations caused by disease, culling, and the misfortunes of fellow pork producers.

But in agriculture, we know that we cant always have it our way. So as always, our job is to do our partto keep ourpigssafeand to supply the world with the pork it wants.