SACRAMENTO — The state lawmaker whose animal antibiotics bill was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September is trying again with a stricter bill.
New legislation by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, would effectively bar the over-the-counter sales of antibiotics for livestock without a veterinarian’s prescription and set up a system to track the use of the drugs in the field.
The bill also sets up a “stewardship program” with which the state Department of Food and Agriculture would establish judicious-use rules for giving antibiotics to animals for preventative or therapeutic purposes.
“The bill goes farther by tracking antibiotic usage on farms, by monitoring emergency trends of antibiotic resistance on farms, and by implementing antibiotic steward guidelines for the production of livestock,” Hill told the Capital Press in an email.
The legislation follows a measure by Hill this year that would have given new voluntary federal guidelines for antibiotic use the force of law in the Golden State. It effectively barred companies from labeling the drugs for growth promotion and feed efficiency and similarly required a veterinarian to prescribe the drugs.
Animal welfare and environmental groups assailed that legislation as “weak” and vowed to “lift the curtain of secrecy” over how much antibiotics are used on farm animals. In his veto message, Brown wrote that Hill’s earlier bill was unnecessary “since most major animal producers have already pledged to go beyond the FDA standard.
“More needs to be done to understand and reduce our reliance on antibiotics,” he added.
Hill believes his new bill satisfies the governor’s need to know more by requiring the CDFA to track the applications of medically important antibiotics, including the specific drug that was used, the number and species of livestock it was given to, the type of disease or infection it treated and how long it was administered.
The legislation comes amid growing concerns among advocacy groups and consumers that antibiotics given to food animals may be contributing to humans’ resistance to the drugs. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated last year that more than 23,000 people a year die from drug-resistant infections.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued new voluntary guidelines a year ago in an attempt to phase out nontherapeutic use of antibiotics important to humans in the livestock industry. Drug manufacturers have agreed to revise their label and directions for antibiotics, and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the FDA’s authority to implement the voluntary program.
While the FDA is responsible for assuring the safety of drugs and regulates their manufacture and distribution, California law requires the agriculture secretary to register over-the-counter livestock drugs and regulate their use for safety and efficiency.
The California Cattlemen’s Association supported Hill’s first bill but is “very concerned” with some provisions of the new bill, the organization stated in a newsletter. The CCA agrees that the use of antibiotics for growth promotion should be eliminated, but wants to make sure their use for disease prevention remains legal, said Tom Talbot, a Bishop, Calif., beef producer and veterinarian who chairs a CCA cattle health committee.
“We’re very willing to sit down with Senator Hill to work through this bill,” Talbot told the Capital Press. “There are definitely things in there we strongly support, and there are other things in there we want to discuss with him. We want to come up with a bill that addresses his concerns and protects some of the issues we need to protect.”
The bill could potentially have more of an impact on chicken and hog producers who put antibiotics in feed rather than cattle producers, who typically only use the drugs on an as-needed basis, said Bill Hooton, a Cottonwood, Calif., veterinarian.
“I don’t think the bill really changes the veterinary perspective of treating an animal,” Hooton said. “If you have an animal that has an infection, you’re still going to use the antibiotics.”
Hill said he’s looking forward to working with agricultural and other groups as well as the CDFA “to enact these reforms to decrease needless antibiotic use in our livestock.”
Senate Bill 27
Proposal: Require a veterinarian’s prescription for use of antibiotics in livestock, establish judicious-use rules and a system to track the use of the drugs in the field
Author: Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, http://sd13.senate.ca.gov/
Read the bill: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/