The National Pork Board at World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa, this week, announced a new antibiotic stewardship plan that will update the Pork Quality Assurance certification program and improve research investments by $1 million for next year.
National Pork Board CEO Chris Hodges said the change reflects that consumers are focused on their food, and the role antibiotics play in meat production.
The changes come as the FDA this week finalized its Veterinary Feed Directive regulations, which phase out on on-farm use of medically important humans antibiotics for growth promotion and bring therapeutic use to treat, control or prevent specific disease under veterinary oversight.
U.S. pig farmers will adapt to this change, Hodges said, because of their "ongoing commitment to responsible antibiotic use at the farm level to produce safe, wholesome pork in a socially responsible way."
Hodges said the NPB plans to continue collaboration with swine groups and stakeholders in improving antibiotic stewardship, but the government also is involved.
Antibiotics needed, but use remains controlled
The White House recently highlighted the National Pork Board as one the nation's leading agricultural organizations managing research efforts in antibiotics and resistance. Hodges said that the organization is working with the White House on obtaining additional funding for research to add to the more than $5.3 million in Checkoff-funded research that's been conducted on antimicrobial resistance and alternatives since 2000.
"Producers need antibiotics to treat sick pigs or prevent illness. It is unethical to withhold treatment," said Jennifer Koeman, director of producer and public health for the National Pork Board. "Over the years, pig farmers have done a great job of working with their veterinarians on using animal health tools such as antibiotics.
Under FDA's policy, swine farmers will need a VFD to gain access to the affected feed-based antibiotics and a prescription for water-based antibiotics. Although a change for the industry, Koeman said it also provides a great opportunity for farmers to work with their veterinarians to revisit all herd health practices.
"We realize that producers will face a substantial change in how they use antibiotics with the impending policy rule changes, but they can feel good in knowing that they are already doing much of what they need to do to be successful," Koeman said. "If farmers continue to work with their veterinarians, talk with their feed suppliers, diligently keep records associated with VFDs and prescription antibiotic use and retain current PQA Plus certification, they will be well prepared to be in full compliance."
PQA revisions >>
PQA revision will focus on antibiotic stewardship
According to the National Pork Board's latest statistics, more than 60,000 producers have completed the PQA Plus on-farm education and certification program, which has a "firm foundation" in antibiotic stewardship, NPB said.
According to NPB, the 2016 revision of the PQA Plus program also will emphasize antibiotic stewardship and stress the importance of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship in deciding when to use antibiotics.
To help producers fully prepare for the changes to come, the National Pork Board is asking them all to strengthen their relationships now with their swine veterinarians. Meanwhile, Pork Checkoff staff will focus on research, education and collaboration on antibiotic issues.
Besides plans to invest additional funds in antibiotic-related research in 2016, the National Pork Board will identify specific risk assessments to better understand the relationship between antimicrobial use in pork production and bacterial resistance.
The Pork Checkoff also is working on creating a blue-ribbon panel of experts to specifically focus on antibiotic use and resistance.
"The pork industry always has been proactive, and pork producers have a long history of using antibiotics properly," said Brad Greenway, a pork producer and National Pork Board's immediate past vice president. "Still, there's always room for improvement. All producers need to strive to keep getting better – something we are very familiar with doing."