Recommendations issued this week from Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (see Industry Insight) if implemented would raise the cost of producing food animals and increase meat prices in the face of a global food crisis, according to the National Pork Producers Council.

The $3.4 million, two-year study of the affects of livestock production on the environment, public health and rural economies was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The recommendations include phasing out certain production practices, banning certain animal antibiotics and placing new restrictions on the use of manure.

The commission overlooked the substantial progress made by the nation’s pork producers in addressing all of those issues, say NPPC officials.

“Pork producers have taken extensive steps during the last decade to meet various industry challenges,” says Bryan Black, NPPC president and an Ohio producer. “We constantly are looking for better ways to raise our pigs, including protecting them from diseases, and we always have been good stewards of the land, air and water that we use.”

Data from eight of the top 10 swine-producing states show, for example, that since 2000 less than 1 percent of hog farms have had a manure release. Additionally, NPPC points out, a tough new federal water pollution regulation covering Confined-Animal-Feeding Operations is due out late this summer. It will protect water supplies from pollution from all large livestock operations by imposing a zero-discharge policy. A rule that most swine CAFOs already comply with,  NPPC adds.

“With the discharge issues largely addressed, it is hard to argue that large pork operations threaten human health, but more research is needed,” says Black. “As for our operations’ affects on air, the concentration of emissions outside of our buildings is well below the established, available public-health standards.”

NPPC adds that the Environmental Protection Agency recently commissioned a first-of-its-kind, livestock industry-supported study to determine the level of air pollution from all types of livestock operations. Findings from the two-year study, which began last summer, will provide the foundation for developing ways to ensure that air emissions from livestock operations don’t harm the environment.

On the issue of animal antibiotics, NPPC notes that a ban on sub-therapeutic drugs – which the commission recommended – would lead to more pig deaths from disease and an increase in the use of post-therapeutic drugs. Both of which would lead to a rise in pork prices.

NPPC disputed the commission’s characterization that large animal feeding operations are bad for the rural economy, pointing out that pork operations are major contributors to farm communities, generating more than 550,000 mostly rural jobs and contributing an estimated $20.7 billion of personal income and $34.5 billion of gross national product to the economy.

NPPC also questions the commission's objectivity, whose work was directed by the Center for a Livable Future, which is part of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Among the center’s projects is “Meatless Mondays.”

“There was a lack of balance among commission members, and the commission’s work was directed by a group that is unfriendly to animal agriculture,” says Black. “As a result, the commission did not give adequate weight to the views of numerous credible voices from within commercial animal agriculture who share the commission’s objectives for a livestock sector that is protective of the environment, food safety, public health and animal welfare.

“Lastly, it’s hard for us to react to the substance of the commission report because it failed to issue all but one of its technical papers,” added Black. “The lack of serious, fact-based findings and apparent reliance on numerous anecdotal, non-peer reviewed allegations only confirms our perception that the report recommendations were largely predetermined.”

Source: National Pork Producers Council