USDA’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is asking Congress to approve $10 million in funding to study antimicrobial resistance and its possible link to antibiotics in poultry and livestock production.

APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea recently asked a congressional subcommittee to approve the funding for fiscal year 2017. APHIS had also sought money for the same purpose for fiscal year 2016, but that request was denied.

“Unfortnately we are not able to do anything without the funding,” Shea said in a USDA Radio News interview. “We really want to gather that data, so there can be a fair and reasoned discussion about antimicrobials.”

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Shea says there are people who think antibiotics in animal agriculture are the leading cause of antibiotic resistance. While Shea indicated he thought agriculture’s role was overplayed by many in this discussion, the research will help give the agency participate in a “real science discussion” about the issue.

If approved, the funding would be used to help collect data and do sampling at livestock and poultry operations in the United States.

Antibiotic resistance concerns have led to a growth in the demand for antibiotic-free chicken, turkey, pork and beef, and many animal protein companies have increased antibiotic-free animal production to help meet that demand.