There is a concerted effort by a broad range of interest to curb the use of antimicrobials in meat production in the United States. Audrey Adamson, Vice President, Domestic Public Policy with the National Pork Producers Council, is on the front line of that battle legislatively, and in interactions with the mainstream media. She thinks animal agribusiness is holding its own with the legislative battles, but may be losing ground in the public opinion battle.
In an interview during the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, June 5-7, 2013, Adamson referred to recent good news on the legislative front. The night before, the U.S. House of Representatives had passed the Animal Drug and Animal Generic Drug User Fee Reauthorization Act, which provides a more predictable and timely review of new livestock and poultry medications by supporting FDA costs with manufacturers' fees through 2018. This will help expedite new therapies and drug development for livestock and poultry.
"The opponents to antimicrobials tried to put all sorts of restrictions in that bill, but we were able to keep it clean," said Adamson. She said the 309-to-12 vote to pass ADUFA shows legislators are confident that the Food and Drug Administration is doing what it needs to in antimicrobial regulation with Guidance 209 and 213.
She said the NPPC is participating with the FDA in the Voluntary Feed Directive. "We want to make sure the program works down on the farm and the veterinarians will be able to treat pig herds," Adamson said.
While celebrating the industry's legislative victories, Adamson is concerned about rising public opinion against antimicrobial use in meat production.
Referring the recent outcry over antimicrobials that started with the article in Consumer Reports Adamson questions the motives behind that organization. "At the end of the article, it clearly stated that the research for the article was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts," she said. "That isn't unbiased journalism."
Adamson has read article after article on the impact of antimicrobials used in meat production, and the meat industry was not represented. "The articles were talking points from the various groups trying to stop antimicrobial use, without any input from the regulated community," said Adamson. "So, I thought we should reach out to reporters and tell the story of modern hog production."
Since then, she has met with reporters from the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other major media outlets to present the pork industry's side of the antimicrobial debate, and to start a running dialogue.
"The effort has paid off," said Adamson. "Now their reporters are calling us with questions."