The National Agricultural Law Center (NALC)

Maryland confronts overuse of antibiotics on farms

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A new law in Maryland will prohibit the routine use of antibiotics on animals that are not sick, a procedure health experts believe helps spread drug resistant bacteria.

The Keep Antibiotics Effective Act will also require the Department of Agriculture to collect publicly available data on use of antimicrobial drugs in the state. Maryland joins California as the second state confronting antibiotic use in farm animals. Per Scientific American, the Maryland law “go[es] further than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines, which seek to prohibit the use of antibiotics for growth promotion in farm animals but do not address the routine use of antibiotics for disease prevention.”

An advocate of the bill, Emily Scarr, Director of Maryland PIRG, stated, “Maryland’s action to protect antibiotics sets the example for other states to follow. We hope more states, retailers, and producers will now become inspired to protect public health by taking action to restrict use of antibiotics on farms.”

Maryland Farm Bureau opposed the law, contending it duplicates rules implemented earlier this year through FDA regulations restricting certain antibiotics. Recently, Bureau president Chuck Fry stated the bill, if enacted, would “cause more livestock sickness outbreaks which would also increase antibiotic resistance as more sick animals would have to be treated, thus leading to more opportunities of resistant bacteria to enter the food chain.”

The legislation takes effect October 1, after Maryland Governor Larry Hogan failed to sign or veto it last week. Farmers in Maryland have until January 1, 2018, to comply with the law.

Text of the Keep Antibiotics Effective Act may be viewed here.

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