The United States Department of Agriculture has granted 2,975 somatic cell count (SCC) derogations for dairy farms that are unable to meet the 400,000 cells/ml European Union export certification requirement.
Of that number, 2,971 were annual derogations and just four were seasonal derogations. That means that 2,971 dairy farms will have to request renewals 12 months after they were granted the derogations unless they were able to bring their cell count averages down. To meet the certification requirement, dairy farms must have a three-month somatic cell count average below 400,000 cells/ml based on a geometric mean.
"Most people 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 this April, where the whole issue might be resolved. NCMIS could vote to lower the U.S. somatic cell count level to 400,000 cells/ml. The U.S. national standard is currently 750,000 cells/ml. A proposal to lower the U.S. standard to 400,000 cells/ml narrowly failed in 2011.
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, NMPF VP of scientific and regulatory affairs. NMPF is still working out the details of the proposal but will have it finalized by the Feb. 4 deadline for proposal submissions, he says.
Some individual states such as California (600,000 cells/ml), Idaho (400,000 cells/ml) and Oregon (500,000 cells/ml) already have lower cell count requirements. Washington is also going through its regulatory rule making process to lower its standard to 400,000 cells/ml for bovine milk as well.