The United States Department of Agriculture has granted 1,150 derogations as of September 4 to dairy farmers who have three-month somatic cell count (SCC) averages greater than 400,000 cells/ml.
USDA officials continue to work through a back log of requests, says Sam Jones-Ellard, a public affairs specialist with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
The number of derogations granted has climbed about 2 ½ times since August 22, as USDA officials work their way through the derogation requests. The August 22 number, 435, did not include any of the bulk derogation requests that had been submitted by some of the larger dairy co-ops, says Ken Vorgert, Chief of USDA’s Dairy Grading Branch.
Although the number of derogations continues to climb, it is not nearly as high as once expected. Many dairy farms have been making substantial progress in reducing their SCC averages, says Vorgert. In addition, the requirement is based on a three-month geometric mean, which is a little easier to meet than if the average was calculated on a simple, arithmetic mean.
The 400,000 SCC average on an individual farm’s milk is needed to qualify for European Union export certification. Though only a fraction of U.S. dairy products are exported to the European Union, it is virtually impossible for dairy processors and manufacturers to segregate low SCC milk for use in EU exports. Thus, all milk coming into plants must meet the certification requirement or farms must obtain a one-year derogation (or exemption) as they work to meet the requirement.