|Cows in the milking parlor on our farm|
As dairy producers, we follow many rules and regulations on our farm, everyday, to comply with state and federal milk quality standards. For example, a state milk inspector visits our farm, unannounced, at least four times each year to make sure we are complying with Grade A milk standards (see my blog The Milk Inspector is Coming). Milk from our dairy, and all other dairies across the nation, is tested for antibiotic residue (see my blog The Truth about Antibiotic Use). All milk is tested before the milk processing plant will accept it. It takes about 20 minutes to get test results. Of the 4 million tests for antibiotic residues performed in 2009, only .028% were positive and this milk was discarded.
Now the federal government wants to come to our farms to conduct more tests even though the dairy industry has an exceptional record of managing antibiotics. I’m no expert from Washington D.C., but it doesn’t make much sense to spend additional time and money testing milk in an industry that already has systems in place to test milk, especially with the huge federal budget deficit. Is the Obama administration being pressured by misinformed special interest groups, mainstream media or elitists who want to paint livestock farmers as misusing antibiotics?
We don’t have anything to hide and accept quality assurance tests as part of producing food. But who will cover the cost? In addition to the added government costs, the proposed FDA milk sampling would be a financial burden on the dairy industry. Why? Because it would take the FDA at least one week, maybe two, to obtain results for the milk tests. What would happen to the tank of sampled milk while awaiting the test results? Milk is a perishable product and can’t wait around a week or more to be processed; therefore that milk would have to be discarded. If this additional sampling is deemed necessary, a test must be developed that can yield results in minutes not days.
Consequently, dairy farmers are being asked to dump all the milk in the tank that is sampled by FDA, millions of gallons nationwide, because milk processors can’t take the chance of using that milk due to the minute chance it would test positive. If a milk sample tests positive, all products made with that milk would have to be discarded and/or recalled. This would be a major expense for a dairy manufacturer so it’s much easier to dump the milk instead of taking a chance. Who is going to pay for the millions of gallons of dumped milk? FDA certainly isn’t offering to cover that expense. Should consumers pay for the testing? Dairy farmers can’t afford to lose an entire day’s income.
Our food system isn’t perfect but it’s the best you will find anywhere in the world. U.S. farmers are productive and innovative which is why U.S. consumers spend just 10% of their disposable income on food each year, much less than people in other nations. We are fortunate in this country to have a safe, abundant and affordable food supply.
We use antibiotics sparingly and only when necessary. Our goal is to produce a safe, quality product from comfortable and healthy cows. I have a family just like many of you and I want to feed them nutritious and safe food. I am 100% confident in the U.S. milk supply and that is why I serve my family dairy every day.