Food Dialogues Blog

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Farmers, Ranchers Work To Regulate Use Of Antibiotics In Agriculture


Thomas Titus, pig farmer from Illinois and one of USFRA’s Faces of Farming & Ranching, says farmers and ranchers use antibiotics responsibly and sparingly for sick animals. Antibiotics are an important part of our animal welfare toolbox, but they’re not the only tool.

Recently, there have been many one-sided claims on an issue I care deeply about: the responsible use of antibiotics on America’s farms and ranches. Many farmers share my concerns, and we are actively assessing how antibiotic usage on farms and ranches may impact human health.

On my family’s pig farm near Elkhart, Ill., we use antibiotics responsibly and sparingly for sick animals. Antibiotics are an important part of our animal welfare toolbox, but they’re not the only tool. When necessary, we give sick pigs antibiotics only under the supervision of a veterinarian — in a similar way to how doctors prescribe medicine to their sick patients.

America’s pig farmers work closely with veterinarians to ensure that their pigs stay healthy. However, at times pigs need medical attention, which may require the use of antibiotics to treat illness. Responsible antibiotic use means using only what’s necessary for pig health. – Infographic courtesy of the We CareSMinitiative, joint effort of the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council

While it may be convenient to lay the blame of antibiotic resistance on animal agriculture, there are major authoritative studies that show human misuse contributes to the problem. The Mayo Clinic says “the overuse and misuse of [human] antibiotics are key factors contributing to antibiotic resistance.” And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also states that “up to 50 percent of all the antibiotics prescribed to humans are not needed, or not optimally prescribed.”

The medical and agriculture communities share responsibility in addressing this issue. Farmers and ranchers take many active steps to address concerns about antibiotic use and its potential impact on human health. Those of us who raise animals for food, animal veterinarians and the greater medical community must work together to ensure antibiotics remain effective for current and future generations.

We are working toward regulating the use of antibiotics in agriculture. Notably, the Food and Drug Administration has mandated that antibiotics that are medically important to human health will not be used to promote growth in food animals by December 2016. Additionally, the FDA will require veterinarian oversight when administering medically important antibiotics to food animals. Once these new FDA mandates go into effect, farmers, ranchers and veterinarians will be ethically and legally required to follow these rules.

Farmers and ranchers like myself care deeply about our animals, and we ensure that they have proper housing, good nutrition, personal attention and veterinary care. We believe that necessary steps to address antibiotic use are multi-faceted and require sharing responsibility with the human medicine medical community — to preserve antibiotic effectiveness for people and animals.

Thomas Titus, a member of the second class of Faces of Farming & Ranching, is a pig farmer from Illinois.

Over the last 52 years, Thomas’s 240-acre farmstead has grown to support four families, three full-time employee families and two part-time employees. Thomas primarily manages the operation of Tri Pork, where they market 12,000 pigs annually. With roots in 4-H, FFA and youth development, they have 50 sows for show pig production, sale and exhibition. This allows their children to learn the joys of showing livestock and helps them develop character-building values.