NCBA wary of animal rights issue

The pork industry isn’t the only sector of agriculture that opposes federal regulation of animal care. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association opposes a legislative proposal that would take animal care out of the hands of egg producers, concerned it could lead to regulation in other sectors.

Tom Talbot, chairman of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s Cattle Health and Well-being Committee, says despite challenges cattle producers face, raising healthy cattle has always been a top priority. Talbot, a veterinarian and California rancher, is appalled that decisions on animal care could be taken from producers and put in the federal government’s control.

Key Points

NCBA opposes federal legislation mandating animal welfare requirements.

Raising healthy cattle is and always has been top priority of beef producers.

Ag coalition says science should be used in regulating use of antibiotics.

Specifically, Talbot is concerned with Amendment 2252 to the 2012 Farm Bill offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. The amendment, which would mandate production practices by requiring a national standard for hen housing, was also introduced as legislation, Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, by Feinstein and Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.

Talbot says while cattle producers make it their top priority to care for their animals, there are organizations that try to paint a different picture of animal agriculture. He says the amendment would codify an agreement between the Humane Society of the United States and the United Egg Producers to seek federal legislation to regulate production practices, which could create a slippery slope for regulation in other areas of agriculture.

“This legislation opens up Pandora’s Box on Capitol Hill. While this bill currently only applies to the egg industry, it’s not a far stretch to see it applied to all animal agriculture,” Talbot says. “Cattlemen proactively worked with veterinarians and cattle health experts to develop production guidelines. We worked together to improve our industry. Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all federal mandate telling farmers and ranchers how to do their jobs is not acceptable.”

Use science, not emotion

NCBA also has a stand on another hot issue as part of a coalition of ag organizations opposing the restriction of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

The coalition, made up of the American Farm Bureau, American Feed Industry Association, American Meat Institute, Animal Health Institute, American Veterinary Medical Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Milk Producers, National Pork Producers Council, National Meat Association and the National Turkey Federation, sent a letter to Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., primary author of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, or H.R. 965.

The act seeks to ban several classes of antibiotics used in livestock and poultry, due to certain illnesses with antibiotic resistances. In February, Slaughter asked food companies to send her their purchasing policies related to antibiotic use in food animals by June 15.

“Antibiotics used in veterinary medicine are reviewed and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” the coalition says in its letter. According to the coalition, the safety assessment is more strict for animal than for human antibiotics in three ways: 1) If there are risks to humans, FDA will not approve the antibiotic for animals; 2) FDA requires a food safety assessment to ensure meat is safe; and 3) FDA studies the pharmaceutical thoroughly to guarantee it doesn’t increase the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in food.

The coalition points out that FDA recently issued new regulations that effectively prohibit the use of “medically important” antibiotics for improving nutritional efficiency in food animals. The rules also ensure veterinarians will be involved in overseeing all uses of these products.

Source: NCBA

This article published in the July, 2012 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.