A legislative committee has voted to temporarily delay implementing a new state rule governing the care of livestock after major Iowa farm groups objected.
The rule was originally scheduled to go into effect April 1. It would have forced veterinarians to examine animals they’re prescribing drugs for or visit the site where the animals are being raised at least once in the past year. Eldon McAfee, an attorney for the Iowa Pork Producers Association, addressed the legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee this morning.
“By going to a hard and fast time deadline — within the past 12 months — affects our facilities quite a bit and we believe the best professional judgment should be respected on behalf of the veterinarians,” McAfee said.
Current rules call for timely and medically necessary visits, but Dr. Duane Ray, chairman of the Iowa Veterinary Medicine Board, said it’s time to “put some teeth” in the rule to protect animal health.
“To be quite honest with you, I’m a little stunned that the Pork Producers and the Farm Bureau are lobbying against this…The Iowa Veterninary Medicine Association is solidly behind this,” Dr. Ray told legislators. “…We have hog producers managing veterinarians. That has to stop.”
Dr. Ray said this is “a critical time” with African Swine Fever detected in the Dominican Republican and Haiti.
“If we get African Swine Fever in Iowa, it’s going to make COVID look like a walk in the park,” Dr. Ray said. “…All swine movement stops for 72 hours. That means the packing houses shut down. All semis stop, so we need veterinarians in the field, familiar with these operations, so we can get this controlled.”
The board has been negotiating with the pork industry for a year over this new rule, according to Dr. Ray.
“One of the veterinarians who represented one of the large corporate swine operations commented: ‘There’s no way I can physically get to all of my clients in 12 months,'” Dr. Ray said. “My response was: ‘Are they really your clients…If you can’t get on that farm for 30 minutes in 12 months…or are you just sitting in a corporate office signing scripts?'”
The legislature’s Administration Rules Review Committee voted to delay implementing the rule for 70 days, but committee members warned the commodity groups the rule will go into effect in June “as is” if they don’t engage in “good faith negotiations.” Representative Mike Sexton, a Republican from Rockwell City, said it’s become common practice for a case of antibiotics to accompany semi loads of pigs delivered to large-scale confinements.
“Those pigs aren’t sick,” Sexton said. “Nobody’s looked at those pigs. We’re just going to have a huge, on hand supply of registered antibiotics that a non-veterinarian is going to be able to administer. That’s the problem.”
Dr. Ray told legislators he’d been called to examine a sick calf and learned the farmer had treated the calf with antibiotics that came with a shipment of pigs, drugs that are not to be given to cattle.