For the Week Ending March 20, 2009

March 20, 2009

Washington, March 20, 2009 


Legislation introduced this week in both houses of Congress would be detrimental to the health and well-being of pigs, would increase pork producers’ production costs and the price consumers pay for pork and could jeopardize public health, according to NPPC. Bills sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., would ban the use in livestock of animal health products that prevent or control diseases. The measures, which ostensibly would prohibit the use of antibiotics that promote growth in livestock, were introduced to address the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. But a 2000 survey of human health experts found that 96 percent of antibiotic resistance in humans is due to human use of antibiotics. Additionally, according to the Animal Health Institute, less than 5 percent of animal antibiotics are used for nutritional efficiency – which promotes growth – and even the majority of those prevent diseases. NPPC points out that the U.S. pork industry has programs – the Pork Quality Assurance Plus and the Take Care: Use Antibiotics Responsibly programs – that include principles and guidelines on antibiotic use that help protect animal and public health and animal well-being. There also is evidence that appropriate antibiotic use in animals protects public health. An Iowa State University study conducted by Dr. Scott Hurd found that when pigs have been sick during their life, they will have a greater presence of food-safety pathogens on their carcasses.


Former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk Wednesday was confirmed as ambassador for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. The U.S. Senate voted 92-5 to approve him. NPPC hopes to work closely with Kirk to keep open to U.S. pork exports important markets such as China, Mexico, Russia and Taiwan. The organization also looks forward to a successful conclusion to the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round negotiations. NPPC’s biggest objective in those multilateral trade talks is significant new market access for U.S. pork in the European Union and in Japan. NPPC was heartened by the new ambassador’s vow to enforce existing trade rules, especially given some countries’ – China and Russia, for example – use of dubious sanitary and phytosanitary claims to block U.S. pork imports. The organization also will be urging the new ambassador to press for congressional action on pending free trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. The Korean agreement alone would raise live hog prices by more than $10 per animal when fully implemented. Trade has been vital to the U.S. pork industry. In 2008, U.S. producers exported nearly a quarter of all pork production or more than 2 million metric tons of pork worth nearly $5 billion. Much of the growth in U.S. pork exports – 2008 was the 17th consecutive record year of exports – can be attributed to market access gained through trade agreements.


Two recent columns written by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tried to link an outbreak of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in an Indiana town with pork production, specifically the “insane overuse” of antibiotics. But according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, humans and their pets use 10 times the amount of antibiotics that livestock does. A 2000 survey of public health experts – mentioned in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy – found that 96 percent of antibiotic resistance in humans is due to human use of antibiotics, and a 2006 report from the Institute of Food Technologists states that correlating the risk of antibiotic use in animals and antibiotic resistance in humans is not possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a February 2008 letter to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said that food-borne transmission of MRSA, “if such transmission occurs, it likely accounts for a very small proportion of human infections” of MRSA. (Kristof was sent a copy of the CDC letter.) Additionally, there is evidence that shows not only does the responsible use of antibiotics in pork production protect animal health and well-being, but it may actually protect public health. A recent study by Dr. Scott Hurd, with the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University, demonstrated that when pigs have been sick during their life, there tends to be a greater presence of food-safety pathogens on their carcasses. And an Ohio State University study found that “antibiotic-free” pigs have a higher incidence of zoonotic diseases and parasites than those that receive antibiotics.


NPPC’s Spring Legislative Conference will be held April 1-2 in Washington, D.C. Pork producers will travel to Capitol Hill to meet with their congressional representatives to discuss key issues currently affecting the U.S. pork industry. Attendees will hear from political prognosticator Charlie Cook and from Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. The highlight of the two-day conference is the Washington-famous NPPC “Rack of Pork” congressional reception April 1. For more information, click here.