Mr. Smith Goes to Annapolis (to Testify on Antibiotics)

    February 23, 2017

By Alex Smith
Purple Sol Farms

Last week, I had the opportunity to testify on behalf of Senate Bill 422 and House Bill 602, the Keeping Antibiotics Effective Act of 2017. I lent my voice both as a farmer and as a proud citizen of Maryland.

IMG_3540My first task after having been invited to support this legislation was to investigate whether or not I did indeed support the bill. The demon of confirmation bias knows no fear, even of the most informed citizen.

I immediately sought information. I diligently read the provided materials and sourced my own. I called friends who had knowledge of the subject and solicited their opinions. I reached into the depths of my own experience as a herdsman and a student to craft my argument.

The literature on each side of the issue was clearly in agreement on one point: antibiotic resistance is both real, and a public health concern of the highest magnitude. The issue is over the cost and benefits of the legislation.

At the hearings, the opposition argued that it would not sufficiently combat antibiotic resistant bacteria but would be onerous to farmers. First, similar restrictions in other countries (voluntary and mandated) have yielded measurable results in combating antibiotic resistant bacteria. Furthermore, the breadth and style of animal agriculture in our country has clearly been tainted by a poignant lack of scientific regard and an obvious valuation of profit over public health. The opposition’s latter point is in stark contrast to another common — and misguided — assertion: that this legislation is duplicative of the recent FDA Guideline 213.

I contend, the language of the federal FDA guideline and the Maryland Keep Antibiotics Effective Act of 2017 creates clear distinctions. Guideline 213 permits the use of antibiotics for routine disease prevention. Using antibiotics for “disease prevention” is a thinly-veiled attempt at preserving the reckless use of antibiotics for profit despite the externalization of cost to public health.

The bills before the Maryland General Assembly address that loophole.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we farmers do have the technology, wisdom, and knowledge to promote growth, prevent disease, and maintain profit in our herds. It is employed in farms across the country. Farmers do not stand to lose from these bills. We only stand to gain.

These bills provide calculated measures to prevent the proliferation of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Therefore, they are a crucial step to preserving the efficacy of antibiotics in both human and animal medicine. I urge you to contact your state legislators and implore them to vote favorably on SB 422 and HB 602.

As for my experience testifying, it was enlivening to witness the guts of government. I was happy to participate because I was raised to believe that conscious, thoughtful, and engaged citizenry is our civic duty. We are all on the same team. Therefore, we must move forward together towards our common goal of a healthy, prosperous society.

I offer these final remarks to anyone considering testifying on behalf of something they care deeply about: concision and reason are powerful weapons of argument. Humor and thoughtfulness can help as well. Balance your appeals of morality and emotion with logic; temper your amalgamation of facts with an appeal to our common humanity.

Happy testifying (from one who has now been there)!


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