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Beef Today News Detail

400,000 Somatic Cell Count Proposal Fails

May 4, 2011
By: Jim Dickrell, Dairy Today Editor
 
 

In a stunning turn of events, delegates to the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) voted 25 for, 26 against a proposal to lower the U.S. Grade A standard to 400,000 cells/ml yesterday.

 
The proposal had been amended to extend implementation dates out to Jan. 1, 2014 for 600,000 cells/ml and Jan. 1, 2016 for 400,000 cells/ml. That amendment passed 41-10. But when the amended proposal was brought up for a final vote, the measure failed 25-26.
 
Delegates opposed to the proposal continued to argue that somatic cell counts are not a human health issue, and thus their regulation should not be part of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. They also argued the measure will put too many small and southern dairy farmers out of business. Behind the scenes, state’s rights issues also came into play.
 
But hanging over the NCIMS meeting and the entire issue is the European Union (EU) requirement that individual farms meet the 400,000 cell/ml limit in order to qualify for export certification. The United States Department of Agriculture and EU officials are currently in consultation on how the U.S. can meet those standards. USDA and EU officials last met in July 2010 on the issue. The hope was that NCIMS would pass the 400,000 SCC proposal and that EU would allow the U.S. to implement it over several years.
 
Sources tell Dairy Today USDA will now be obligated to act and put in place a program that specifies options on how dairy producers can meet the 400,000 cell/ml requirement. It could be as simple as a statement that as long as milk is pasteurized, it meets the requirement. But it could also require actually lowering the somatic cell count standards. “USDA must do something, probably within the next 60 to 90 days,” says one source.
 
USDA’s Dairy Industry Advisory Committee, USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the National Milk Producers Federation and the National Mastitis Council all support lowering the cell count limit.  

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COMMENTS (5 Comments)

MARGO - TURLOCK, CA
If my SCC was 400,000 I would lose my bonus. If my SCC is a 100,000 I am concerned. The shelf life of our products is definitely reduced with the higher SCC count. It would be wise to evaluate your milking protocols and determine the health of the animals you are milking.
9:31 AM May 5th
 
MARGO - TURLOCK, CA
If my SCC was 400,000 I would lose my bonus. If my SCC is a 100,000 I am concerned. The shelf life of our products is definitely reduced with the higher SCC count. It would be wise to evaluate your milking protocols and determine the health of the animals you are milking.
9:31 AM May 5th
 
James Maroney - Leicester, VT
Farmers could agree to lower SCC standards even further in order to limit production but they are wary of schemes that require them to act cooperatively: they prefer to strive as individuals for ever-higher production for which they expect to be paid ever-higher prices. Above all, they oppose intrusive, EPA regulations because they firmly believe that regulations are a potent threat to farm production.

Wait a minute: let’s assume, when push comes to shove, which is where they are today, that every dairy farmer’s first and most important objective is a higher, industry-managed, free market price. The “Dairy Industry Advisory Committee Report” and the National Milk Producers Federation both say that for prices to rise it is essential to “align” milk production with commercial market needs. What is more, virtually every dairy economist agrees that a reduction in supply of only 2% would double the FMMO price.

So: if supply must fall for prices to rise and if regulations are such a potent threat to production, why do farmers not take the path of least resistance and act in their collective, economic interests by supporting the EPA’s effort to regulate the industry? They should, in others words, embrace EPA regulation but be certain it reduces production not 2% but 10% which would shift the 40/60 utilization out of low-paying Class II, III and IV markets into higher-priced Class I markets. What for God’s sake is the point of NMPF spending millions to fight the government to get the status quo or of farmers spending hundreds of millions more to restart the cycle of ever-escalating debt and ever-expanding capacity? For little or no expense farmers could see their prices double or triple courtesy of the government, their traditional adversary, which could not prosecute them under Capper-Volstead (Capper-Volstead 1922 prohibits farmers limiting production in order to raise prices) for voluntarily conforming to the Clean Water Act. Why not go a step further to improve consumer milk quality by voluntarily culling chronically high-count cows from the herd to adjust the SCC to 150,000/ml, lowering veterinarian, feed and pharmaceutical costs and restoring the farmers’ beleaguered debt to equity ratios into the bargain? Might not the money thus saved (and thus earned) be better allocated to a public relations campaign to convince an increasingly skeptical public that milk prices are moving up because the industry cares about its customers, its product and our water quality? What about this approach Mr. Secretary?

3:49 PM May 4th
 
mps - Paris, TN
Do we really need government forcing us to do what we can do for ourselves? Having the 400,000 limit in the PMO was the easy way, now those of us in the industry are going to have to do what they get paid to do.
12:06 PM May 4th
 
mps - Paris, TN
Do we really need government forcing us to do what we can do for ourselves? Having the 400,000 limit in the PMO was the easy way, now those of us in the industry are going to have to do what they get paid to do.
12:05 PM May 4th
 



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