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USDA ups oversight of pig farms to combat deadly virus

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday that it will commit $5 million to fight a deadly disease that is attacking the nation's hog farms.

The Associated Press reported that farms stricken with Porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) will now be required to report outbreaks. Farms that experience an outbreak also will have to participate in a program to help control the spread of the disease. It's part of a new program geared at better monitoring.

PED has killed millions of pigs in 27 states since first showing up last May. The story said that Minnesota is one of the four states that have have been hardest hit by the disease. Little is known about how it spreads and there is no federally approved vaccine. The virus poses the greatest risk to newborn piglets, which die from dehydration. It does not infect humans or other animals.

On Thursday, WZZM in Grand Rapids, Michigan reported that a farmer in Allegan County lost 5,000 pigs to PED in the past week. Farmer Dennis Deyoung told the station that is is one of 90 Michigan farms that are now infected with PED.

Deyoung does not know how the virus spread to the pigs in his barn.

USA Today reported that the virus is driving up the price of pork products. The story quoted Sterling Marketing, which said the outbreak in the hog population has pushed up pork prices by 56 percent.

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