Yakima Valley Releases Draft Air Quality Policy for Dairies

Unlike agricultural water discharges which are regulated for large farms defined as CAFO by the EPA and the Clean Water Act, most agricultural air emissions are not regulated. Water discharges and air emissions that are related to industrial scale agricultural operations in rural areas are big concerns for local communities. The Yakima Valley in Eastern Washington State is one of these areas.  The historical use of this irrigated valley for agriculture has left a legacy of wells and groundwater contaminated with nitrates, chemicals and biological agents. At this time there is disagreement among local stakeholders about the source of these contaminants.  There are no swine or poultry operations in the valley and dairy practices in the valley have changed in the last 20 years from small pasture based operations to industrial scale operations. The EPA and Washington Department of Ecology are currently conducting a groundwater study which was developed in 2008 using a community based research plan.  Many individuals in the community are certain that the extent of the groundwater contamination is due to the expansive dairy operations in the Valley.  Additionally it is becoming more apparent that large scale operations can have dramatic effects on regional water and air quality.

Leah Beth Ward presented a three-part series, “Hidden Wells, Dirty Water,” in the Yakima Herald Republic which explored the dairy industry, governmental agency policy and community concerns about the adverse environmental and public health effects associated with exposures to Yakima Valley dairy operations.    Another YouTube video exposé of the area, “Dairyman Blues,” explored some of the concerns of community residents and the work of local activist groups in response to the change in dairy processes. Read More >

Too Much or Too Little: The Hazards of Mixing Antibiotics in the Feed Given to Food Animals

How food animals are given medication can be very different from how you take medication.  While humans are prescribed antibiotics at specific dosages in pills or injections, food animals are often given antibiotics mixed in their feed and freely choose how much to consume.  These free-choice medicated feeds (FCMF) make it difficult to deliver an intended or predictable dose of antibiotics to food animals. The result can be disastrous; under-administration of antibiotics leads to unresolved infections and contributes to the development of antimicrobial resistance, while over-administration can cause animal toxicity and increase drug residues in meat and milk.

A new commentary in Environmental Health Perspectives, lead authored by Dave Love, PhD, CLF’s project director of Aquaculture and Environmental Public Health, sheds light on the practice of administering antibiotics in FCMF. The Food and Drug Administration has approved 685 drugs for medicated feed, many of which are consumed on a free-choice basis, according to Dr. Love, who looked into the practice with co-authors Meghan Davis, DVM, MPH a CLF Pre-doctoral Fellow and Sommer Scholar, Anna Bassett, Lead Technical Auditor and Andrew Gunther, Program Director of Animal Welfare Approved, an organization which audits and certifies family farms on the basis of humane animal husbandry, and senior author Keeve Nachman, PhD, MHS, Director of CLF’s Farming for the Future Program.

Their commentary, “Dose Imprecision and Resistance: Free-Choice Medicated Feeds in Industrial Food Animal Production in the United States,” discusses the history of medicated feed, the nature of FCMF use, and its role in development of and selection for antimicrobial-resistant microorganisms. The commentary also discusses legislative efforts to address antimicrobial use in food animal production. Read More >