Written by: John Stewart | March 13, 2020
While much of the fuss in the government affairs world is made about the federal government, state government decisions have significant impacts on the animal food industry as well. Most states have a state feed law that gives state regulators the primary authority over all animal food and ingredients.
State legislatures, while often similarly structured to the U.S. Congress, are vastly different than their federal counterparts. First, most state legislatures end before or during early summer and have accelerated timelines they must stick to before adjourning for the remainder of the year, meaning that laws are often written in haste. Second, most state legislators are part time and have careers and lives outside of their government service. Finally, state legislatures often see things differently from their neighbors and because they have the right to self-govern, it can make consistency and harmonization of laws difficult to achieve.
As it relates to animal food and animal health, here are three things to watch out for in what remains of the 2020 legislative session:
As federal regulators grapple with how to regulate the burgeoning commercial hemp industry, states are also taking matters into their own hands. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of commercial hemp as an agricultural commodity, directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create a hemp production program and set up a framework similar to other commodity structures. Outside of some of the production issues the USDA is working on, the Food and Drug Administration has also come under scrutiny as the primary regulator of cannabidiol (CBD) oil and hemp byproducts used in food for humans and animals. While the USDA and FDA move forward with developing their own regulatory framework around hemp, many states have already taken steps toward making commercial hemp a legal commodity and other states are racing to do the same. Some of that language includes hemp that is fed to animals.
The challenge for the animal food industry is that CBD and/or hemp byproducts have not gone through the federal review process at the FDA and thus are still not legal to be used in feed, even as its presence in the marketplace abounds. The uncertainty created by these differing state laws and how they conflict with federal law is proving to be quite challenging for the industry. I’d anticipate more states modifying their own hemp laws to suit the needs of farmers who are struggling with low commodity prices and looking for additional revenue streams. AFIA will continue to advocate for the review of ingredients and harmonization of state feed laws to reduce confusion and inconsistency in the marketplace for hemp and all animal food products.
Antimicrobials, a group of agents that destroy or stop the growth of microorganisms, have been under scrutiny for many years. In particular, the use of antibiotics (which stop the growth of bacteria) and their link to antibiotic resistance have come under fire, especially in the agricultural space. In 2015, changes to the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) regulations from the FDA were finalized, requiring veterinary oversight of animal drugs delivered to animals through feed. In 2017, the FDA removed “growth promotion claims” from legal use with antibiotics and moved “prevention use” under the supervision of a veterinarian.
To be clear, our industry supports the judicious use of all antimicrobials and antibiotics of all types and relies on sound science to keep animals healthy. Unfortunately, some states are taking it upon themselves to remove the ability for farmers and veterinarians to use these tools to prevent or treat illnesses in animals. No different than a school or office, illnesses can spread quickly through flocks or herds of animals, making timely and effective prevention or treatment measures critical to ensuring animal health. As states remove these tools, they remove the ability for producers and veterinarians o do their jobs of protecting animal health and welfare by providing the most effective and efficient care possible. AFIA will continue advocating for these tools and their judicious use so that our industry can be responsible partners to provide proper care to animals.
The animal food industry is primarily regulated by state feed control officials, often housed within state departments of agriculture. Typically, these departments are run by license fees, product registration fees, taxes on the tonnage of feed sold in the state or some combination thereof. AFIA supports these state regulators as they work to keep our industry safe and protect consumers. Unfortunately, some states are using their state feed programs as a vehicle to fund other projects within the state that may or may not have anything to do with feed. While many of these projects are well intended – penalizing or taxing one particular industry to pay for unrelated programs is unjust. AFIA opposes any fee increases in a state that are not necessary for feed control officials to do their jobs.
These are just a few of the key issues that AFIA is monitoring for this state legislative session, but I’m sure there are further ones to come. One of AFIA’s founding principles was to create harmony in state feed laws; for over 110 years, we’ve been working at that goal and will continue to do so.