Weekly livestock and equine news: January 25, 2021

USDA takes over farm animal biotech and gene editing

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed a memorandum of understanding that sets the Department of Agriculture as the chief regulator of farm animal biotechnology and gene editing, the Cattle Site reports. The MOU “clears a path to bring our regulatory framework into the 21st century, putting American producers on a level playing field with their competitors around the world,” Perdue said. “In the past, regulations stifled innovation, causing American businesses to play catch-up and cede market share.” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn opposed the agreement.

FDA seeks public comment on potential approach for defining durations of use for certain drugs

The FDA published a concept paper to obtain early input from the public on a potential framework for how animal drug sponsors could voluntarily make changes to the approved conditions of use for certain drugs, to establish a defined duration of use for those indications that currently lack a defined duration of use. The paper focuses on medically important antimicrobial drugs administered through the medicated feed of food-producing animals. The agency published a notice in the Federal Register inviting the public to comment on specific questions regarding the concept paper. Comments will be accepted until April 12.

More pandemic aid for some farmers, new access to paycheck protection loans

USDA will provide more aid through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced. Eligibility will be expanded for some producers and commodities, while other payments will be updated to accurately compensate some producers who already applied for the program, the department said in a statement. Farmers who are now eligible and need to apply or modify their application should work with their local Farm Service Agency office between January 19 and February 26. The department said other changes will be made to the program too, including new payments for swine producers who received funding during the first CFAP round. More information is available in Successful Farming. Access has also been expanded for the Paycheck Protection Program, Feedstuffs reports.

Tyson settles antitrust case for $221.5 million

Tyson Foods has agreed to pay $221.5 million in a settlement in the broiler chicken antitrust price-fixing lawsuit against the company, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The settlement will be reflected in the company’s first quarter financial statement, Drovers reports. The agreement allows Tyson to exit the price-fixing lawsuits filed against it and other poultry companies by customers and consumers. The announcement comes after Pilgrim’s Pride agreed to pay $75 million in its own settlement. Tyson had announced a settlement at the same time but didn’t name the amount.

Livestock workers face high MRSA risk, study shows

Swine farm workers are about 15 times more likely to become infected with livestock-associated MRSA than those who don’t work on swine farms, according to a new study from Michigan State University. Cattle workers are nearly 12 times more likely, and livestock veterinarians are nearly eight times more likely. “Livestock-associated MRSA is a strain of MRSA that is especially infectious among animals. Now it has evolved to infect humans as well,” said Felicia Wu, a Michigan State professor. The livestock-associated strain appears to be less dangerous than strains that evolved in health care settings. It also appears to be less prevalent than community-associated MRSA, caused by bacteria in gyms, schools and workplaces. For these reasons, the livestock-associated strain doesn’t get as much focus as other strains, but Wu said there’s still much to learn about it.

Horse soring inspections should be conducted by veterinarians: report

Only veterinarians should administer inspections at Tennessee walking horse shows to detect evidence of the illegal practice of soring, a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommends. The report, which reviewed methods for detecting evidence of soring in walking horses, said differences in training and experience account for the discrepancies between inspections done by veterinarians engaged by USDA and “designated qualified persons” under the current program. Those DQPs are mostly non-veterinarians licensed by the horse industry organizations that host shows. Horsetalk reports.