CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — The new state budget calls for the hiring of five regional veterinarians to help livestock producers protect their herds from devastating diseases, such as African swine fever.

ASF has caused China to eliminate all of its pork industry and totally rebuild, and ASF is close to the U.S. in the Dominican Republic.

That is too close says, Jennifer Tirey of Illinois Pork Producers.

“I also talked to the State veterinarian Dr. Mark Ernst and he agreed that he needed more boots on the ground, essentially to help us in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak,” Tirey said. “We would need those veterinarians on the ground immediately to develop those control sites so we can keep moving animals across the country.”

Those new state veterinarians will help producers prevent disease and address issues should it occur, said Josh St. Peters of Illinois Beef.

“The investment in these additional veterinarians will just simply put more hands on deck to assist and more hands on deck who are technically trained experts,” St. Peters said. “Obviously, anybody with a DVM is coming well equipped with an understanding of not only how to mitigate the risks. But unfortunately, if we do face a disease outbreak, those will be those individuals who can be the boots on the ground working with our members and the livestock producers to make sure we are quarantining any animals that may be ill and most importantly restoring freedom to operate for the industry to ensure a safe and nutritious supply of protein for our consumers here in Illinois and throughout the country.”

Tirey attributed the passage of the legislation to joint efforts by major agricultural groups.

“It’s never a one-person effort. We worked so closely with our partners in the agriculture industry, including the Illinois Corn Growers, the Illinois Soybean Association, because livestock is their number one customer, and so if something happens to the livestock industry in Illinois, they would see the devastation in the corn and soybean industry,” Tirey said. “We are very grateful for their partnership. At the very end of session we were able to work wit some very key legislative leaders in both the House and the Senate to see that this budget was put in and we have also been working with the Illinois Farm Bureau, and that partnership is very valuable when it comes to Illinois agriculture.”