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FDA provides guidance on use of antibiotics in food-producing animals

WILLMAR -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it was taking steps to protect public health and promote the judicious use of medically important antibiotics in food-producing animals. The announcement obviously captured the attention of our nation's livestock producers and the entire livestock industry.

However, everyone must understand that the steps announced by the Food and Drug Administration are nonbinding recommendations that do not establish legally enforceable responsibilities. Instead, the agency is providing a framework for the voluntary adoption of practices to ensure the appropriate or judicious use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals.

That framework includes the phasing in of certain measures. Those measures include:

* Limiting medically important antimicrobial drugs to uses in food-producing animals that are considered necessary for assuring animal health;

* Limiting the use of antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals to instances that would include veterinary oversight or consultation.

The voluntary strategy is primarily focused on medically important antimicrobial drugs that meet the following criteria:

* Were approved prior to October 2003;

* Are used in food-producing animals to increase feed efficiency and promote growth;

* Are available over-the-counter and therefore, can be given without a veterinarian's involvement;

* Are given continuously, through feed or water, to entire herds or flocks of animals.

Antimicrobial drugs have been widely used in human and veterinary medicine for more than 50 years, with tremendous benefits to both human and animal health. "Antimicrobial drugs" include all drugs that work against a variety of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites.

The development of resistance to this important class of drugs, and the resulting loss of their effectiveness as antimicrobial therapies, poses a potentially serious public health threat.

According to information provided on the Food and Drug Administration's website, the misuse and overuse of antimicrobial drugs creates selective evolutionary pressure that enables antimicrobial resistant bacteria to increase in numbers more rapidly, thus increasing the opportunity for individuals to become infected by resistant bacteria.

However, the Food and Drug Administration also believes that the use of antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals for disease prevention purposes are both necessary and judicious, as long as their use includes professional veterinary involvement.

For additional information regarding the government's recommendations on the use of antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals, visit the Food and Drug Administration's website at

The website also provides summaries of the findings and recommendations from more than 40 years of research on the issue of antimicrobial drug resistance, including links to a number of recognized international, governmental and professional organizations that conducted the research.

USDA offers loans for groups considered socially disadvantaged

Each year the USDA's Farm Service Agency targets a portion of its farm ownership and farm operating loan funds to socially disadvantaged farmers. During the 2011 fiscal year, the agency obligated $6.3 million in direct and guaranteed loans to socially disadvantaged producers in Minnesota.

A socially disadvantaged farmer is defined by USDA as an applicant that is a member of a group whose members have been subjected to racial, ethnic or gender prejudice. For loan purposes, socially disadvantaged groups are women, African Americans, American Indians, Hispanics, and Asian and Pacific Islanders.

Socially disadvantaged producers who cannot obtain commercial credit from a bank can apply for either direct or guaranteed loans with the Farm Service Agency.

Direct loans are issued to the loan applicant by the Farm Service Agency. Guaranteed loans are made by lending institutions that have the loan guaranteed by USDA for up to 95 percent of the loss of loan principal and interest.

The guaranteed loan provisions may allow lenders to make agricultural credit available to producers who do not meet the lender's normal underwriting criteria.

For more information, contact or visit the USDA's Farm Service Agency office at your local USDA Service Center.

Melanie Dickman named Kandiyohi County District Conservationist

Melanie Dickman, a graduate of Willmar Senior High School, Ridgewater College and the University of Minnesota, was recently named district conservationist of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service for Kandiyohi County.

Following graduation from college and prior to her coming to Kandiyohi County, Dickman had worked for NRCS in a number of different capacities and locations in Minnesota and South Dakota. Her most recent assignment was serving as the district conservationist at the Swift County office in Benson.

Dickman replaces Mike Taylor, who recently retired after serving 18 years as the district conservationist at the Kandiyohi County NRCS office.

Wes Nelson is executive director of the USDA Farm Service Agency in Kandiyohi County.