"Farming"

APHIS Announces New Procedures to Regulate Contagious Equine Metritis

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By: Jocelyn Arlinghaus, Staff Member

The beginning of 2012 has heralded new developments in the fight to eliminate contagious equine metritis (CEM) in the United States. CEM is a venereal disease common to horses caused by the bacterium Taylorella equigenitalis.[1] It is considered extremely dangerous due to its highly contagious nature.[2] The disease is typically transmitted via sexual intercourse during the mating process, but it may also be transmitted through artificial insemination or contact with hands or instruments that have been contaminated.[3] Common symptoms include vaginal discharge, uterine inflammation, and temporary infertility.[4] Stallions show no physical signs of CEM, which makes detecting and controlling the disease before it spreads extremely difficult.[5] During breeding season, a stallion often infects several mares before the presence of the disease is discovered.[6]

CEM was first diagnosed in England in 1977, but had spread to the United States by 1978 with reports documented in central Kentucky and Missouri.[7] The disease was treated and thought to be eliminated from the United States prior to 2006, when two imported stallions in Wisconsin tested positive for the CEM bacteria.[8] Another outbreak was confirmed in December 2008, when five mares and 23 stallions in eight states tested positive for the CEM bacterium.[9] Although the 28 initially discovered horses were cured of the disease, another 977 horses were exposed to Taylorella equigenitalis in the outbreak, which spanned 48 states.[10] CEM was subsequently discovered in Arabian stallions in May 2010 in California and in July 2011 in Arizona.[11] The USDA’s National Veterinary Service (NVSL) has confirmed that in all cases the infected stallions were contaminated prior to arrival in the United States.[12] Interestingly, the strain of the isolated bacterium in these new cases did not match any strains previously found in the United States, which indicated that the multiple outbreaks were unrelated and therefore developed as a result of separate equine imports from foreign countries.[13] Efforts to eradicate the recent string of outbreaks in the United States continue. Because mares can only be bred during certain times of the year, CEM can substantially impact equine reproductive efficiency.[14] If the disease continues to stabilize in the United States, the equine industry will face great economic losses.[15]

The United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) has been taking steps to provide additional safeguards against spreading CEM to horses in United States through importation of infected horses. In 2011, APHIS amended the regulations concerning the importation of horses from countries affected with CEM. The new standards require test mares and imported stallions above a certain age to undergo an additional CEM test to improve the chances of detecting the disease.[16] APHIS has also imposed stricter certification requirements for imported horses 731 days old or less and added new test measures for imported horses more than 731 days old. [17] Yearlings and weanlings require proof that they have not been bread to other horses through artificial insemination in order to be imported.[18]

On January 10, 2012, APHIS announced that it will post lists of states approved to receive imported horses from high-CEM foreign regions to its website rather than including them in the Code of Federal Regulations.[19] This change will not affect the criteria that APHIS uses to determine whether a foreign region should be added or removed from the list or criteria used to approve states to receive horses imported from high-CEM foreign countries.[20] Because these lists will not continue to appear in the Code of Federal Regulations, updates are no longer required to be legislated. [21] This new procedure will enable APHIS to more quickly identify changes in the CEM status of foreign regions and approve states to receive horses from foreign regions where CEM is known to exist.[22] Additionally, this will simplify the process of informing the equine community and the public of any concerns of possible CEM exposure to horses in certain areas of the country. APHIS considers this change to be another step toward eliminating the string of CEM outbreaks and improving the welfare of horses and the equine industry.

[1] Contagious Equine Metritis, United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (Mar. 2009), http://www.aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health/content/printable_version/fs_CEMrev09.pdf

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, supra note 1.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Contagious Equine Metritis Cases, United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/hot_issues/cem/cem_cases.shtml#december (last modified Jan. 26, 2012).

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, supra note 1.

[15] Id.

[16] USDA Announces Interim Rule Regarding the Importation of Horses from Contagious Equine Metritis - Affected Countries, United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (Mar. 25, 2011), http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/2011/03/importhorse_cemacountr.shtml

[17] Importation of Horses From Contagious Equine Metritis-Affected Countries, 76 Fed. Reg. 58 (proposed Mar. 25, 2011) (to be codified at 9 C.F.R. pt. 93).

[18] United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, supra note 16.

[19] Lists of Regions Classified With Respect to Certain Animal Diseases and States Approved To Receive Certain Imported Horses, 77 Fed. Reg. 1388 (proposed Jan. 10, 2012), (to be codified at 9 C.F.R. pts. 92, 93, 94, 96, 98).

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

Implications of Rising Hay Costs on Horses

 

By: Stephen M. Frazier, Senior Staff member

One of the main problems facing horse owners is the necessity of hay.  Unlike cattle and other livestock that can be fed a variety of hay, grain, and silage, horses primarily derive nutrition from quality hay.[1] To compound the problem, owners cannot alleviate the financial burden by feeding horses a mixture of grain and hay because, with corn selling for nearly eight dollars a bushel, grain prices are at an all-time high.[2] As a result, owners are stuck paying $18 to $19 per bale of alfalfa - the same alfalfa that was selling for about $9 a bale a year ago.[3]

The next problem with buying hay is quality. When buying hay, purchasers should be certain to purchase hay of sufficient quality to meet the nutritional needs of horses.[4] Failure to adequately inspect the hay could result in purchasing hay of poor quality that will require additional supplementation, such as protein, to meet nutritional needs.[5] According to agricultural experts, the main factors affecting hay quality are “stage of maturity, leafiness, color, foreign matter, odor, and condition.”[6] These factors can be determined by a visual inspection, or by having the hay tested.[7]

Finally, with the increasing cost of hay, farmers should take necessary and adequate precautions to preserve the hay once it is in their possession. Proper storage of hay bales is vital because this can mitigate or prevent deterioration or spoilage of the hay.[8] Ultimately, storing hay inside a barn is the best option, as it greatly reduces the risk of hay loss.[9] However, if such storage is impossible, then bales stored outside should be placed on some sort of surface, ideally gravel or pallets.[10] Furthermore, the bales should be stored in a well-drained area with at least three feet between rows.[11]

The increasing hay prices have left farmers and horse lovers scrambling to acquire hay. In addition, once they are able to locate a source, the price is nearly double that from a year ago.  Therefore, to ensure that farmers get the best value for their dollar, it is important that they take the time to adequately inspect the hay and take the proper precautions to ensure its safekeeping.

[1] Id.

[2] Julie Ingwersen, Midwest turns dry as drought worsens in Plains, Reuters,  Jul 21, 2011,

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/07/21/us-usa-drought-plains-idUSTRE76K4T52011072.

[3] Wichner, supra note 1.

[4] Daren Redfearn, Hay Purchasing Guidelines, Department of Plant & Soil Sciences Extension News, Apr. 20, 2011, http://extensionnews.okstate.edu/archived-articles-1/2011-archived-articles/Hay%20puchasing%2 0guidelines %20doc.pdf.

[5] Id.

[6] Mindy Riffle, Weather could impact hay supply, Country World, June 21, 2011, http://countryworldnews.com/news/headlines/900--weather-could-impact-hay-supply.html.

[7] Id.

[8] James Rogers and Robert Wells, Rain Effects on Hay, Noble Foundation, Sept. 2007, http://www.noble.org/ag/forage/raineffects/index.html.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

Agriculture and Antibiotics: A Healthy Mix?


by Sarah Baker, Staff Member

The great majority of Americans enjoy their commercially produced meat—hotdogs, chicken, steaks, bacon, and ham. We spend less on our packaged protein, trust the safety of the greater food supply, and are well served by modern agriculture methods, or so it would seem.

But, at what cost to our health?

This question is one the Obama administration has been asking over the past year in its efforts to ban antibiotics from being used in healthy animals. Patty Khuly, Antibiotics Benefit Farm Animals (and People) But at What Cost?, USA Today, March 11, 2010 available at http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/pets/2010-03-10-dolittler11_N.htm. Intended to promote growth and prevent disease, the animal agricultural industry feeds hogs, chicken, and cattle a daily dose of antimicrobial drugs. As a result, the animals grow larger, faster and healthier. Id. However, antibiotic resistance is an emerging threat.

When antibiotics are supplied to healthy animals in low doses for a long duration of time, resistance to the drugs build up, enabling bacteria to survive and multiply instead of being destroyed. The Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, Antibiotic Resistance and the Industrial Animal Farm, http://www.saveantibiotics.org/resources/PewAMRfactsheetfinal1.pdf (last visited Oct. 26, 2010). Humans can acquire the resistant bacteria by eating meat from these animals or by not using proper sanitation techniques during food handling or preparation. Id. Many of the antibiotics given to animals are very similar to those used to treat humans, including tetracyclines and penicillins, among others. Id. Therefore, the bacteria becoming resistant to the drugs in animals are also likely to be resistant to those drugs when proscribed to sick humans.

The impact of bacteria resistance is finally gaining some attention on the national political scene. Some recent findings show that up to seventy percent of U.S. antibiotics go to healthy farm animals to offset crowding and poor sanitation on industrial farms, and 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 human deaths each year are caused by foods containing E. coli and salmonella, which are increasingly becoming antibiotic resistant. Id. Statistics of this magnitude are too frightening to be ignored.

President Obama has proposed a ban on non-therapeutic antimicrobials in animal feed. Opponents, however, argue that the use of antibiotics in the animal agricultural industry keeps animal sickness manageable in crowded environments, and costs low in the supermarket. Khuly, supra. As a meat loving people, however, we must consider the implications of current agriculture practice and long-term health consequences. I’ll take a burger, minus the antibiotic resistant bacteria, please.

Government to Fund Racial Bias Settlement with Black Farmers

By: Sunni Harris, Staff Member

In Pigford v. Glickman, 127 F. Supp.2d 35 (D.D.C. 2001), Black farmers claimed that the USDA discriminated against them "on the basis of race, and failed to investigate or properly respond to complaints from 1983-1997." Tadlock Cowan & Jody Feder, The Pigford Case: USDA Settlement of a Discrimination Suit by Black Farmers, (2009), http://www.nationalaglawcenter.
org/assets/crs/RS20430.pdf
. While this case was settled in 1999, a new settlement was announced on Feb. 18, 2010 that addresses claims from black farmers who were excluded from participation in the earlier settlement. Paul Courson, Black farmers: Government to fund racial bias settlement, Cnn, Feb. 18, 2010, http://edition.cnn.com/2010/US/02/18/black.farmers.lawsuit/index.html?iref=allsearch. In the end the parties were able to reach a settlement. Id.


Although a settlement has been reached, the 2010 farm bill still needs to be approved by Congress which would place at least $1 billion in the hands of individuals who have received judgments in compensation claims. Id. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack doesn't think that "anybody in Congress doubts there's a responsibility to settle." Id. The secretary believes that the reason why funding wasn't provided to black farmers in the past was because there was concern by lawmakers that no agreement had been reached. Id. Since an agreement was reached on Feb.18, 2010, funding is now much more likely.


Once the farm bill is funded, there are two ways in which qualified black farmers can receive a payout: (1) On track A, qualified farmers would receive $50,000 "with minimal proof linking discrimination to the denial of federal farm support." Id., and (2) On track B, "A more rigorous system of proof could establish actual damages and yield a potential payout up to $250,000, depending on how many other claimants also prove their cases to draw from the funding provided by Congress." Id.


The implications of the black farmers settlement may be far reaching. Around the same time that black farmers filed their initial suit against the government, several other minority groups, including but not limited to females, Hispanics, and Native Americans, filed similar actions claiming bias in the way the USDA disbursed loan money. In the coming months we may see the government attempt to settle claims with these minority groups as well. However, if the government chooses not to settle with these similarly-situated minority groups, we may see a backlash from these communities.