Conference will again consider lowering U.S. standard
USDA has granted 2,975 somatic cell count (SCC) derogations to dairy farms that are unable to meet the European Union’s export certification requirement of 400,000 cells/ml.
Of that number, only four were seasonal derogations, which
are valid for three years; the rest were annual derogations. That means 2,971 dairy farms will have to request a renewal
in 12 months unless they are able to bring their cell count average down.
To meet the certification requirement without a derogation, dairy farms must have a three-month SCC average below 400,000 cells/ml based on a geometric mean. The vast
majority of U.S. dairy farms do so.
Another chance. "Most people [with derogations] are improving," notes Ken Vorgert, chief of USDA’s Dairy Grading Branch, which grants the derogations. "When people request a second derogation, we will be looking for progress and some sort of improvement."
Vorgert notes that the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) meets in April and might resolve the whole issue. NCIMS could vote to lower the U.S. SCC level to 400,000 cells/ml from the current national standard of 750,000 cells/ml.
A proposal in 2011 to lower the U.S. standard to 400,000 cells/ml narrowly failed. That required USDA to step in and institute its derogation process for individual dairy farms. The first derogations were issued last summer.
The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) will again submit a proposal to NCIMS to lower the U.S. standard to 400,000 cells/ml, says Jamie Jonker, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the organization. At press time, NMPF was still working out the details of the proposal, but Jonker said it would be finalized by the Feb. 4 deadline for submission.
Some states, such as California (600,000 cells/ml), Oregon (500,000 cells/ml) and Idaho (400,000 cells/ml), already have lower cell count requirements. Washington is also going through the regulatory rulemaking process to lower its state standard to 400,000 cells/ml for bovine milk as well.