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OMAHA (DTN) -- Livestock producers and other stakeholders largely are not aware of new federal rules changing the way farmers are allowed to administer antibiotics to animals.
The Farm Foundation released a detailed report Wednesday stemming from 12 workshops the group held around the country to draw attention to new FDA policies on antibiotics and feed.
Over the past three years, the FDA has issued industry guidance regarding the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in livestock. At the end of 2013, FDA detailed a three-year phase-in for the pharmaceutical and feed industries regarding the labeling of medically important drugs to ensure those drugs can no longer be used for production purposes. Such antibiotics can only be used in feed or water to control or prevent diseases in animals raised for the food supply when approved by a licensed veterinarian. As the Farm Foundation report states, "Compliance with these rules is not voluntary for farmers, ranchers, veterinarians or feed companies."
FDA also revised its Veterinary Feed Directive to detail a process for allowing drug use in animal feed. The new rule highlights for veterinarians the ground rules for signing off on such antibiotics in feed. Overall, FDA and drug companies will eliminate the use of these drugs for growth promotion or feed efficiency in animals raised for the food supply. This will change the market status for some over-the-counter drugs that have traditionally been mixed with feed. Such drugs will now require a prescription.
These new feed rules and restrictions on drug access are expected to go fully into effect by the end of this year. Once the rules go into effect, it will be illegal to use these drugs simply for growth or feed efficiency. Farmers and ranchers will need approval from a veterinarian to use such drugs in feed for prevention, control or treatment of a specific disease.
Farm Foundation held workshops that included more than 500 people and conducted surveys with participants to gauge their understanding of the rules. The group is holding a summit in Washington, D.C., this week to further spotlight the issues.
"Successful implementation of these policies is critical to public and animal health, ensuring consumer confidence in food safety and the future viability of animal agriculture in the United States," said Joe Swedberg, a Farm Foundation trustee, who chairs the Project Advisory Committee. "Through the workshops and survey, it was evident that some veterinarians and producers -- especially those with smaller operations -- are not fully aware of the production practice adjustments needed. Much educational work has been done, but still more is needed to reach the full scope of the industry."
The foundation highlighted several major findings:
Livestock producers, particularly small- to medium-sized producers, are not aware of the impending FDA guidance or feed directive. Additionally, many veterinarians also are not aware of the rules changes. Farm Foundation noted that less than half of the people who attended its workshops were clear on their responsibilities under the Veterinary Feed Directive rule.
A Farm Foundation survey found respondents saw the main reasons for the rule changes were public perception, but also better livestock management. Other respondents were concerned about increased costs and risks to animal health because of potentially less access to antibiotics.
The biggest market impacts also will be felt by producers who are not connected with a larger integrated supply chain. Cattle producers and those who raise other ruminants such as sheep, goats, bison or elk, see that reduced access to antibiotics could have a serious impact on their operations.