Beginning Oct. 1, 2010, any dairy processor exporting to the European Union will need to certify that each farm that supplies milk for those exports must be below 400,000 somatic cell count.
In the past, processors were required to meet the 400,000 SCC level with co-mingled milk from multiple dairies, but not on an individual farm basis. Now, each farm supplying milk must meet the 400,000 SCC level on a rolling three-month geometric mean. (The geometric mean is based on linear score, and is more reflective of the biological response to mastitis infections. It is also generates a slightly higher average than if averages were computed by taking a simple, arithmetic average.)
Dairy processors and National Milk Producers Federation representatives met with officials from USDA, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Trade Representative in a meeting yesterday. "This is the first step in an on-going process to understand how we can comply with these new requirements without having a drastic disruption in production practices in the U.S.,” says Jamie Jonkers, NMPF VP of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs.
"This is really the beginning of the process, and we're still in a learning phase,” he says. "But we will have to move fairly quickly because Oct. 1 is not all that far away.”
The European Union established the 400,000 SCC requirement in the late 1990s, but allowed the U.S. to meet it with co-mingled milk in tankers and silos. This new individual farm requirement was added several years ago. However, E.U. trade representatives notified their U.S. counterparts that they were going to start enforcing the requirement July 1, 2010. Further negotiations were able to push that deadline back three months to Oct. 1.
Whether this is considered a new trade barrier to prevent U.S. dairy products from entering the European Union, which is awash in its own surpluses, is a matter for debate. "It is another area of discussion we will have with the U.S. Trade Representative,” says Jonkers.