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Farm Bureau speaks out against antibiotic legislation

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is urging congressional members to oppose legislation that would restrict the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry. Pending bills H.R. 965 (House) and S. 1211 (Senate) would remove specific antibiotics and classes of antibiotics that are important for use in animals from the market. In letters to Senate and House members, AFBF said the legislation would handicap veterinarians and farmers in their efforts to maintain animal health and protect the nation’s food supply.

“Farm Bureau members use antibiotics carefully, judiciously and according to label instructions to treat, prevent and control disease in their flocks and herds,” said AFBF President Bob Stallman. “These products are critically important to the health and welfare of the animals and to the safety of the food produced from these animals.”

Dr. Beth Blevins, DVM, who serves as chair of the Montana Farm Bureau Animal Health Committee, spoke out against the legislation. “The major causes of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are humans being prescribed antibiotics for viral infections which are not susceptible to antibiotics, and not taking the full antibiotic regimen, allowing a resistant subpopulation to survive to multiply again,” said Blevins. “The public needs to understand that indiscriminate antibiotic use in animals is not cost effective. Ranchers use antibiotics only when they need to because it is expensive to treat an animal if that treatment is not justified. Use of feed additives like Rumensin and Bovatec control disease and improve feed efficiency. Having a sick animal is riskier to the food chain than alleged antibiotic resistance will ever be.”

Blevins said consumers should be confident that ranchers are following labels and doing the right thing. “It’s critical to maintain availability of antibiotics to raise healthy animals to provide high-quality protein,” the large animal veterinarian from Ronan noted.

AFBF also said antibiotic use in animals does not pose a serious public health threat.

“Proponents of the bill suggest that antibiotic use could constitute a public health threat through antibiotic-resistant bacteria in animals being passed along, creating a similar resistance in humans,” said Stallman. “However, in more than 40 years of antibiotics being used to treat animals, such a public health threat has not arisen, and recent government data shows the potential that one might occur is actually declining.”

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