ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Maryland Senate is considering a bill on antibiotic use for livestock, titled the Keep Antibiotics Effective Act.
The act, also known as Senate Bill 422, passed a committee Tuesday night and is now headed to the Senate floor.
Sponsored by District 22 Senator Paul Pinksy, it would prohibit the use of antibiotic drugs to cattle, swine and poultry as a preventative measure unless medically prescribed or a directive issued by a licensed vet. It would also require submitting a copy of that prescription or directive to the State Department of Agriculture.
"It adds another layer to paperwork farmers already have," explains Dr. Jarred Miller, agriculture educator at the University Of Maryland Extension in Somerset County.
Dr. Miller noted that's one of the direct impacts on Maryland farmers should the bill pass.
According to Senator Pinsky, the bill addresses health concerns by going a "half-step further" than what's already regulated through the federal government.
"Waste from the animals that runs off in the streams and rivers, in the meat itself, in the water that is used with the animals...it goes into the water, into the ground," he explains.
He says using antibiotics for the purposes of animal growth is already illegal; however, this bill puts a cap on routine use. It's in response to "superbugs", growing resistant to antibiotics.
The CDC estimates that 23,000 Americans die annually as a result of antibiotic-resistant infections.
"It's hurting our society," says Senator Pinksy. "I mean, they're [antibiotic-resistant infections] finding more and more resistance. People are dying who are resistance to every antibiotic known to man and women."
The Maryland Farm Bureau has opposed this bill, calling it "unnecessary" and duplicating restrictions already in place.
Bureau president Chuck Fry says if enacted the bill 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."
Dr. Miller tells 47ABC he believes people would like to see how the federal regulation effects antibiotic resistance before adding statewide measures.
"With the poultry industry aware that consumers would prefer to have antibiotic free chicken, we're already pretty much headed in that direction, anyway," he says.
Senator Pinsky tells 47ABC the bill is expected to be heard on the floor Wednesday.
The Associated Press reports if passed, Maryland would become the second state in the nation after California to prohibit routine antibiotic use in livestock.
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