Animal Agriculture: Antibiotics
Sally Schuff reported on Monday at Feedstuffs Online that, “A draft guidance issued last week by the Food & Drug Administration [transcript of media briefing] sets out two key principles the agency expects will underpin future policy directions on the judicious use of ‘medically important’ antibiotics in food animals.
“The June 28 announcement sets the stage for FDA’s long-anticipated process to address antimicrobial resistance by tightening the use of subtherapeutic antibiotics in livestock production.
“Specifically, FDA said it will no longer support two key uses of antibiotics in livestock: growth promotion and feed efficiency. That’s based on its first principle, which states that only uses that ‘are necessary to assure’ animal health are considered ‘judicious.’”
The article added that, “In its second key principle, FDA maintained that the use of any medically important antibiotics in food animals should be conducted with oversight from or in consultation with a veterinarian.
“That would clearly change the way medically important antimicrobials, which are currently approved for over-the-counter sale, could be dispensed, but it was not spelled out in the draft guidance.”
The FDA proposed changes for antibiotic use in livestock were the key topic of discussion on yesterday’s AgriTalk Radio Program with Mike Adams.
William T. Flynn, Senior Advisor for Science Policy at the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine was a guest on yesterday’s program; in part, Mike Adams asked him, “What science or what data has been used to determine the need to make these changes?” To listen to a portion of this exchange, just click here (MP3- 2:25).
Mike Adams asked Dr. Flynn about the procedure going forward from the FDA draft release and also inquired about “documented proof” regarding the use of antibiotics in livestock and potential adverse impacts this use has on human health. Click here listen to this exchange (MP3- 2:28).
National Pork Producers Communications Director Dave Warner also appeared yesterday on AgriTalk to discuss the FDA proposals, to listen to a portion of his comments, which focused on the “science” behind the issue, just click here (MP3- 2:29).
And Dr. Christine Hoang, an assistant director of the Scientific Activities Division of the American Veterinary Association also appeared on yesterday’s AgriTalk program. To listen to some of her comments regarding livestock antibiotic use, which focused on risk and potential unintended consequences, click here (MP3- 2:22).
Dr. Hoang also pointed out that FDA represented its view on the livestock antibiotic issue last July at House Rules Committee hearing.
Recall that Reuters writer Charles Abbott reported on July 13, 2009 that, “The Food and Drug Administration believes antibiotics should be used on livestock only to cure or prevent disease and not to promote growth, a common use, said a high-ranking FDA official on Monday.
“Principal deputy FDA commissioner Joshua Sharfstein said restrictions on livestock use would reduce the opportunity for bacteria to develop resistance to drugs used by humans.”
The article added that, “‘Purposes other than for the advancement of animal or human health should not be considered judicious use’ and not allowed, Sharfstein said in a statement for a House hearing. ‘Eliminating these uses will not compromise the safety of food.’”
Animal Agriculture: HSUS- Ohio Accord
Rod Smith reported last week at Feedstuffs Online that, “Ohio agricultural groups struck a deal with The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) today that gives HSUS many of the restrictions on agricultural production in Ohio that it wants in return for HSUS agreeing not to pursue a ballot initiative this fall seeking to institute those restrictions through a constitutional amendment.
“The groups represent all of the Ohio corn, soybean, livestock and poultry associations and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and the agreement is supported by the Ohioans for Livestock Care Steering Committee and by Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.
“Also signing onto the agreement was Ohioans for Humane Farms, which worked with HSUS to bring the initiative to the ballot this fall.”
Josh Sweigart reported last week at the Hamilton Journal News (Ohio) that, “Wednesday’s [June 30] deal follows last year’s constitutional amendment creating the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, which farm groups lobbied hard for. It was an open attempt to prevent the Humane Society of the United States from pushing a tougher measure this year that farmers feared would drive them out of business.
“HSUS officials say they have the half-million signatures needed for that effort, which would prohibit confining farm animals so they can’t turn around, lie down, stand up or fully extend their limbs. Similar measures have succeeded in states such as California, Michigan and Florida.
“Both sides are claiming victory in the compromise.”
In part, Mr. Martosko indicated that Ohio Democratic Governor Ted Strickland desperately wanted to keep any animal care related initiative off the ballot in November due to political considerations. Rural voters, which potentially trend to the GOP, would likely have turned out in great numbers if a livestock measure was on the ballot, and in the process, could have voted for Gov. Strickland’s GOP competitor. To listen to a portion of this analysis, just click here (MP3- 0:38).
Bloomberg writer Kate Andersen Brower reported yesterday that, “The top U.S. trade officials said the country is on track to meet President Barack Obama’s goal of doubling exports in five years, led by a 19 percent increase in agricultural exports in this year’s first quarter.
“‘We’re very bullish on agricultural exports,’ Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today at the White House after export-promotion officials met with the president. Vilsack said that with the 19 percent increase, he expects the U.S. will have its second-best year of agricultural exports since his agency began keeping track.
“Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, joined by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, said the U.S. can ‘easily’ meet Obama’s goal of doubling exports in five years.”
The article added that, “Kirk gave no time estimate on completing agreements with Colombia and Panama. ‘We continue to make good progress’ in talks with those countries, he said.
“The president pledged June 26 at the Group of 20 summit in Toronto to revive the stalled free-trade talks with South Korea with a goal of finishing a deal in November during his planned visit to Seoul. The aim is to submit a free-trade deal to Congress in succeeding months, he said.”
Reuters writer Doug Palmer reported today that, “President Barack Obama wants to win congressional approval of free trade deals with Panama and Colombia but has not set a deadline for resolving problems with the pacts, the top U.S. trade official said on Tuesday.
“‘These free trade agreements are almost entirely to the benefit of American exporters and do represent collectively several billion dollars of opportunities,’ U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told reporters after a meeting of Obama’s Export Promotion Cabinet.
“‘We’re going to do everything we can to bring them forward as soon as it makes sense to do so,’ Kirk said.”
In related news, a statement yesterday from National Association of Wheat Growers Chief Executive Officer Dana Peterson and U.S. Wheat Associates President Alan Tracy indicated that, “The Canadian parliament has ratified a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia that will, when implemented, allow Canadian wheat to enter that country duty free.
“The agreement gives a major wheat-producing competitor an immediate price advantage in a market where U.S. wheat exports had earned a dominant market share. It means that U.S. wheat producers could lose sales worth $70 million today to Canada at a time when they can least afford it. In fact, U.S. farm families now face losing a substantial portion of agricultural exports to Colombia worth nearly $1.7 billion, including $330 million in wheat exports, in 2008. Even more disturbing is the fact that our farmers should never have faced this dilemma.
“That is because while the United States government has failed to ratify a bilateral FTA it negotiated with Colombia in 2006 that would allow most American agricultural exports to enter Colombia duty free, Canada has moved ahead with its own trade agenda.”
Meanwhile, Howard Schneider reported in today’s Washington Post that, “A bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee last week would repeal a broad travel ban on Americans visiting [Cuba] — leaving the broader sanctions in place but taking a major step toward weakening them. It also would loosen rules that allow food sales to the country.
“Such efforts have come before, and there is no guarantee of success this time. The bill narrowly passed the Agriculture Committee, 25 to 20, and must clear the House Financial Services Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee before a floor vote is possible.
“The Obama administration in theory supports liberalizing relations with Cuba but has expressed disappointment at the pace of reform under current Cuban leader Raúl Castro, and did not testify at hearings on the pending legislation. Mike Hammer, spokesman for the National Security Council, was noncommittal on the substance of the legislation, saying the White House supported Congress’s ‘robust’ discussion of Cuba policy as an example of the type of democratic freedom that it would like for the Cuban people.”
The Post article added that, “In addition, what had been a budding agricultural trade with Cuba has foundered. First authorized in 2000, U.S. farm sales to Cuba grew steadily through 2008, peaking at more than $700 million and accounting for nearly 40 percent of the country’s agricultural imports.
“But financing restrictions — the purchases must be handled through banks in a third country, and credit can’t be offered — and the economic downturn have undercut those sales as the country shifted to suppliers in Brazil, Canada and elsewhere, according to a study submitted to Congress by researchers at Texas A&M University.
“The bill tries to reverse that by removing the financing restrictions, and putting Cuban importers on a more even footing with other purchasers of U.S. farm products. The current rules ‘have hand-delivered an export market in our own back yard to the Brazilians, the Europeans and other competitors around the world,’ said Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.), chairman of the Agriculture Committee, at a March hearing on the legislation.”
Peter Cohn reported on Friday at NationalJournal Online that, “BP could stand to reap federal tax credits approaching $600 million this year for blending gasoline with corn-based ethanol, making the British oil and gas giant one of the largest beneficiaries of the 45 cents-per-gallon ethanol incentive.
“The credit expires Dec. 31, and the House Ways and Means Committee is preparing as early as next month to debate a ‘green jobs’ bill eyed as a vehicle for an extension. Environmentalists are seizing on the generally low esteem the public holds for BP at the moment, with the future of the roughly $5 billion-a-year ethanol credit in the balance.
“‘Generally, we feel that after 30 years, it’s finally time for ethanol to stand on its own,’ said Dusty Horwitt, senior counsel at the Environmental Working Group.”
The article added that, “Ethanol backers say the BP argument is a straw man. ‘I don’t think that has any legs,’ said House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson. He said the credit keeps ethanol competitive with oil until it can be marketed on a level playing field, including special blenders’ pumps at gas stations and boosting the limit on how much ethanol can be blended with gasoline.
“‘It’s all my environmental friends standing in the way of us getting complete access to the marketplace, because they really don’t like ethanol. If they had their way, we’d all walk,’ Peterson said. ‘We’re willing to compete; we’re willing to phase out this ethanol tax credit, when we get equal access to the market.’”
Carolyn Lochhead reported yesterday at the San Francisco Chronicle Online that, “While the BP oil spill has been labeled the worst environmental catastrophe in recent U.S. history, a biofuel is contributing to a Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’ the size of New Jersey that scientists say could be every bit as harmful to the gulf.
“Each year, nitrogen used to fertilize corn, about a third of which is made into ethanol, leaches from Midwest croplands into the Mississippi River and out into the gulf, where the fertilizer feeds giant algae blooms. As the algae dies, it settles to the ocean floor and decays, consuming oxygen and suffocating marine life.”
The article added that, “As to which is worse, the oil spill or the hypoxia, ‘it’s a really tough call,’ said Nathaniel Ostrom, a zoologist at Michigan State University. ‘There’s no real answer to that question.’”
Meanwhile, Reuters writer Tom Doggett reported yesterday that, “U.S. gasoline prices fell to the lowest level in three weeks due to lower crude oil costs, the Energy Department said on Tuesday.
“The national price for regular unleaded gasoline dropped 3.1 cents over the last week to $2.73 a gallon, the department’s Energy Information Administration said in its weekly survey of service stations.”
Reuters writers Timothy Gardner and Tom Doggett reported today that, “Power plants in the eastern half of the United States will have to slash emissions of pollutants blamed for premature deaths under proposed rules issued on Tuesday by federal regulators.
“The Environmental Protection Agency said the rules, part of a series of steps to control emissions from power plants, would overturn and toughen clean air regulations issued by former President George W. Bush’s administration. The agency hopes they would begin taking effect in 2012.
“The plan would cut sulfur dioxide emissions that drift across state lines by 71 percent from 2005 levels and nitrogen oxide emissions by 52 percent by 2014, the EPA said.”
The article added that, “Some analysts said the proposed rules could push utilities to support a plan for climate legislation that would cap greenhouse gas emissions at power utilities first.”
Susanne Stahl and Anthony Greder reported yesterday at DTN (link requires subscription) that, “Nineteen percent of the U.S. corn crop is silking, according to USDA’s latest Crop Progress Report. That puts it seven percentage points ahead of last year’s pace.”
“Ninety-seven percent of the soybean crop is emerged, on par with the five-year average. Twenty-three percent of the crop is blooming, three percentage points ahead of average and 10 percentage points ahead of the 2009 pace.”
John Perkins noted yesterday at Brownfield that, “Seventy-one percent of corn and sixty-six percent of soybeans are in good to excellent condition, both down from last week.
“Fifty percent of winter wheat is harvested, compared to fifty-four percent a year ago and fifty-three percent on average.”