For the Week Ending October 2, 2009

October 2, 2009

Washington, D.C., October 2, 2009 


The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration has provided to the U.S. Congress misleading information about the effects of Denmark’s 1998 ban on certain antibiotics used in pork production. In information recently provided to the House Agriculture Committee, the agency, part of Denmark’s Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, refuted criticisms of the country’s ban on antibiotic growth promotants (AGPs) leveled by the U.S. pork industry, which is fighting efforts by some congressional lawmakers to impose a similar prohibition in the United States. The Danish government claims its ban has had “no negative impact on animal production,” that it has resulted in a 50 percent reduction in total antibiotic use in food animal production and that it has reduced antimicrobial resistance. But the U.S. pork industry is sticking by its criticisms. It points out that while Danish pork producers have increased productivity in terms of pigs per litter and average daily weight gain, data collected by the Danish government show increased mortality rates in weaner and finisher pigs for at least five years following the AGPs ban. Additionally, changes in production practices forced by the ban, such as increased weaning age, raised costs to Danish pork producers. The claim of a 50 percent reduction in overall antibiotic use only can be proved if usage figures beginning with 1992 are used, says the U.S. pork industry. The ban took effect in 1998; using 1997 as the baseline year shows the reduction is about 27 percent. But data also show that today there are more antimicrobials being used to treat pig diseases than there were AGPs used in 1997. The U.S. pork industry points out that many of those therapeutic antimicrobials are in classes that may directly affect human health, such as macrolides. Most importantly, Denmark says it instituted the AGPs ban to protect public health and contends that there has been “a major reduction in antimicrobial resistance as measured among several different bacterial species in food animals and food.” But there has been no decrease in food-borne pathogens, says the U.S. pork industry, meaning there has been no measureable public health benefit from the AGPs ban. In fact, a World Health Organization report on the ban found a demonstrable increase in Tetracycline resistance in human Salmonella isolates and suggested the rise was because of an increased use of Tetracyclines in weaned pigs with diarrhea, which became more common following the ban. NPPC is leading the U.S. pork industry’s efforts against bills pending in Congress that would ban the use in livestock and poultry production of antibiotics used to prevent and control diseases. According to an analysis conducted by Iowa State University, such a ban would raise the cost of producing a market hog by as much as $6 in the first year following the prohibition.



A House-Senate conference committee Wednesday approved a compromise fiscal 2010 agriculture appropriations bill, which now must go to the Senate and House for final passage before the current continuing resolution expires at the end of October. The bill includes $350,000 for a national trichinae certification program, $5.3 million for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Identification System and $2.5 million for Pseudorabies management. The measure also includes language allowing USDA to conduct a scientific risk assessment on the safety of Chinese chicken imports, a measure strongly backed by NPPC.



Sens. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., were among a group of 24 senators who this week sent U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack a letter urging him to purchase $100 million of pork from struggling hog farmers. The letter thanked Sec. Vilsack for his prior assistance in helping U.S. pork producers, who have been in economic crisis since September 2007. Over the past two years, pork producers have lost an average of $22.50 on each hog marketed, with a total loss of more than $5 billion in equity. The senators also asked Vilsack to work with federal agencies to help monitor the H1N1 virus on farms and with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to re-open export markets, particularly China, to U.S. pork. A number of U.S. trading partners closed their markets to U.S. pork in the wake of the H1N1 flu outbreak in late April. The letter comes a day after an amendment to provide additional relief to dairy farmers passed a Senate-House conference committee. The amendment gives USDA $350 million to buy milk and other dairy products.



NPPC is backing a proposal that would have the U.S. Department of Agriculture purchase excess supplies of meat and dairy products to help ailing producers and consumers struggling to afford nutritious, protein-rich foods. Offered by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, the “Meat the Need” proposal calls for USDA to increase allocations to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly “food stamps”) and require SNAP beneficiaries to purchase meat products, using an electronic benefits transfer card. Under the proposal, USDA would purchase over a 180-day period in three 100 million-pound tiers pork from cold storage inventories. The purchases would be made until pork prices reached a target price of $49 per carcass hundredweight – the current average cost of production – or until the three tiers are completed.



Legislation introduced in the U.S. House last week that would ban without scientific justification an animal health product would set a dangerous precedent for the livestock and poultry industries, according to NPPC, which is opposing the bill (H.R. 3624). Sponsored by Rep. Steve Israel, a Long Island, N.Y., Democrat, it would prohibit the use of roxarsone as a food additive. The organic arsenic compound is used in very small amounts as a feed additive to prevent coccidiosis, a parasitic disease that can cause intestinal problems in poultry and pigs. Israel claims the product causes “environmental and health problems.” But arsenic is found naturally in rock, soil, water and air, and while chemical compounds containing the inorganic form can be toxic, the organic form is considered safe. The organic form is used in some food animal production; there is little use of roxarsone in pork production. All ingredients and additives for use in animal feed must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, points out NPPC. FDA considers:

  • Efficacy – the material must be demonstrated to work as intended.
  • Safety – the material must be demonstrated safe for the intended animal.
  • Adequate manufacture – the drug company must demonstrate that it can manufacture the product in the necessary form, dose and purity required.
  • Environmental safety – the drug company must demonstrate that the product is not environmentally hazardous.

If a product is for use in food animals, FDA considers whether it is safe for humans. The agency also establishes a safe residue level and a withdrawal period – an amount of time an animal must be off a product before going to market – for each drug. With regard to roxarsone, an FDA statement reads: “The approved drugs containing arsenic that are added to poultry feeds are organic arsenicals, which are not considered to be carcinogens and are considerably less toxic than inorganic forms of arsenic. At present, we are not aware of any substantiated environmental impacts from this use.”



Former NPPC President Jill Appell of Altona, Ill., recently was chosen by the Obama administration to serve on the Farm Service Agency (FSA) Illinois State Committee. Appell, a hog farmer and past Illinois director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Office, served as NPPC’s president in 2007. She has been involved in county, state and national producer organizations, including as president of the Illinois Pork Producer Association in 1997. Appell was appointed along with three others who have spent the majority of their lives involved in Illinois’ agriculture industry. “These four new members of the FSA State Committee have lifelong experience in many facets of Illinois agriculture that will allow them to be effective leaders within the Department of Agriculture,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. “I look forward to working with them, Secretary Vilsack and President Obama on both national and local agricultural issues.” FSA’s mission is to equitably serve all farmers, ranchers and agricultural partners through the delivery of effective, efficient agricultural programs for all Americans.