Delmarva Farmer Columnists


What does new livestock antibiotics law mean? (June 27, 2017)

Ag Law

By Sarah Everhart, University of Maryland Extension Legal Specialist Agricultural and Resource Economics

(Writer’s note: This column should not be interpreted as legal advice for the reader.)

During the recent Maryland General Assembly session, the “Keeping Antibiotics Effective Act of 2017” was passed into law.
The controversial Act was amended substantially before its passage.
Proponents of the Antibiotics Act want the use of antibiotics in cattle, swine, and poultry controlled to prevent the occurrence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans.
Yet the need for the Antibiotics Act baffled some, given the federal Veterinary Feed Directive rule went into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.
The VFD rule requires veterinary supervision for feed-use antibiotic drugs and prohibits using antibiotic drugs for growth promotion or feed efficiency.
Previous to the VFD rule, feed-use antibiotic drugs were available over-the-counter.
Currently, all drug companies have changed the use conditions of their antibiotic feed drugs by removing “feed efficiency and growth promotion” from the label.
Critics of the VFD rule say there is a loophole in the federal system which allows producers to use the drugs in the same manner as before the VFD rule (in continuous low doses otherwise known as sub-therapeutic use) and simply say they are now using them to prevent disease rather than promote growth.
This purported loophole was eliminated in the passage of a California law in October 2015 prohibiting the sub-therapeutic use of antibiotics in food producing animals, for both growth promotion and disease prevention purposes.
The recently passed Antibiotics Act mirrors the VFD rule by prohibiting the administration of an antibiotic (referred to in the law as a medically important antimicrobial drug) to cattle, swine, or poultry solely for the purpose of (1) promoting weight gain or (2) improving feed efficiency.
An antibiotic may be administered if a veterinarian feels it is necessary to treat disease or infection, control the spread of disease or infection, or prepare the animal for surgery or medical procedure.
Both the law and the VFD rule also allow a veterinarian to prescribe the use of an antibiotic to address an elevated risk of contraction of a particular disease or infection.
Like the California law, the Maryland act, starting on or after Jan. 1, 2018, will also prohibit producers from routinely feeding cattle, swine and poultry an antibiotic at low doses for disease prevention.  
Violations of the law may result in an administrative penalty not exceeding $2,000.
The antibiotics act does not apply to small operations, specifically on a farm operation selling fewer than 200 cattle, 200 swine, or 60,000 birds per year.
However, the federal VFD rule does not have any exemptions for small farm operations.
As originally proposed, the antibiotics act would have required producers to submit all copies of Veterinary Feed Directives and prescriptions for antibiotics to the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
These records would have been collated and then made public.
This provision was removed from the final version of the antibiotics act and replaced with a requirement for the Maryland Department of Agriculture to review publicly available Maryland-specific data from sources such as the Center Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and national trade associations, and make it available to the Maryland General Assembly.
Maryland’s antibiotics act is mostly complementary of the federal VFD rule, but does make Maryland the second state in the nation, after California, to take the further step to strengthen the federal rule by expressly prohibiting the routine, sub-therapeutic dosing of cattle, swine, or poultry with antibiotics for disease prevention.
For more information on the VFD rule, a recorded webinar on the topic, featuring veterinary experts from the FDA and Maryland, can be found on the videos section of the ALEI website (
Further, Maryland farmers with questions about administering antibiotics to livestock can e-mail the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health Program at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 410-841-5810.

(Editor’s Note: Sarah Everhart is a legal specialist and research associate with Agriculture Law Education Initiative and the University Of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.)

Rockets, farming in it together (June 27, 2017)

Keeping the Farm

By Robin Talley, District Director, Delaware Farm Service Agency

Have you been following the Wallops Island rocket launch?
NASA has been trying for weeks to launch a rocket that will allow scientists to gather information.
Canisters will deploy after the rocket is launched to form blue-green and red artificial clouds.
Clear skies are required so cameras can capture how particles move in space.
Since June 1, attempts to launch the rocket have been scrubbed numerous times due to high winds and cloud cover.
Perhaps by the time you read this, NASA’s luck will have turned and their mission accomplished.
If so, Americans from New York to North Carolina will have a chance to view this impressive show. Weather permitting, of course.
Farmers in the Mid-Atlantic can appreciate NASA’s frustration; the weather has been a challenge for farmers too.
We’ve had another cold, wet spring, then a quick switch to hot and dry.
In your push to harvest wheat and barley and finish planting soybeans, don’t forget that crops need to be reported soon.
July 15 is the deadline to report corn, soybeans, and most vegetables. Since this is a Saturday, you have until Monday, July 17 to visit the office.
If the crop has not been planted by the final reporting date (soybeans as an example), you have 15 calendar days after planting is complete to report the crop.
August 15 is the last day to report processing beans.
If you have crops covered by the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, and the crop will be harvested earlier than July 15, you must report the acreage 15 days before the onset of harvest.
For example, if you will have fresh market sweet corn ready for harvest by July 10, it must be reported by June 26.
Help us make your office visit more efficient. If you call and set up an appointment, we’ll have your maps and contracts ready to go.
Be sure to bring planting dates and other details about the crops planted.
Remember, you must have a complete and timely-filed acreage report on file to be eligible for Agricultural Risk Coverage/Price Loss Coverage, NAP, and other program benefits.
You can take care of cover crop certification with the Conservation District while you are in the office and we will send all of your crop report data to your crop insurance agent.
You will still need to sign an acreage report for crop insurance but that should also be a quick visit.
When you are in the office, we would be glad to talk to you about FSA county committees.
Summer is when we begin the process for county committee elections.
The election of agricultural producers to FSA county committees is important because these farm men and women are a critical component of USDA operations.
They help deliver FSA farm programs at the local level by applying their judgment and knowledge to make local decisions.
For example, they might set a watermelon yield to be used for disaster programs or evaluate payment eligibility documentation. 
County Committees work to ensure FSA agricultural programs serve the needs of local producers while operating within regulations designed to carry out federal laws.
Each county in Delaware is divided into three voting areas. County committee members serve three-year terms and the area holding an election rotates each year.
We encourage you to check out which area in your county is holding an election this year and get involved.
Agricultural producers who participate or cooperate in an FSA program may be nominated for candidacy for the county committee.
Individuals may nominate themselves or others as a candidate.
Organizations representing minority and women farmers may also nominate candidates. The county committee nomination period runs through Aug. 1.
If you haven’t done it yet, be sure to sign up for GovDelivery, our electronic news and notification service.
When you subscribe to this service, reminders of upcoming deadlines, newsletters, and other information will be sent via e-mail right to your home or farm office or to your Smartphone.
To begin using GovDelivery, subscribe online at or contact your local office for subscription assistance.
We also offer text alerts to keep you up-to-date while on the go. Subscribers will receive text messages regarding important program deadlines, reporting requirements, outreach events and updates.
Standard text messaging rates apply.  Expect to receive no more than two text messages from FSA each month, on average. You can unsubscribe at any time.
Contact a local FSA office for subscription help.
See you at the fair!