Antibiotic Use In Livestock…And The Food We Eat

Yesterday I attended the USDA NRCS Technical Team meeting for the State of Rhode Island. As part of the meeting, we reviewed many of the accountability measures that USDA has in place for farmers who utilize their conservation practices programs. In order to utilize conservation practice payments from USDA a farmer needs to document resource concerns and provide a substantial amount of data, testing, and documentation before they qualify (or as part of the practice planning and implementation process).

As I’m driving back to my office, I find myself listening to a NPR report on antibiotic use in industrial livestock operations. As I’m listening I hear the reporter say…

There’s a heated debate over the use of antibiotics in farm animals. Critics say farmers overuse these drugs; farmers say they don’t.

It’s hard to resolve the argument, in part because no one knows exactly how farmers use antibiotics. There’s no reliable data on how much antibiotic use is intended to make animals grow faster, for instance, compared to treating disease.

Given USDA requires all kinds of data and information from small farmers to aid their environmental improvement practices, it seems reasonable that USDA could find a way to follow the use of antibiotics in livestock. The problem is a mindset that some farmers – particularly older farmers – have about their ‘private land’ and its management….very much a ‘don’t tread on me’ philosophy. Given the evolution of CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) I think CAFO operators have now made their private land and its management a public health concern.

The NPR Report