“The driving force behind these legislative changes was consumer demand for safer pork products. The end result was putting more than 600 swine producers out of business — and to no good gain for consumers.”

“The end result of loss of domestic production was a big increase in pork imports into the U.K. Needless to say, a high percentage of imports were not subjected to the same regulations as those put in place in the U.K. 

“So, consumers ended up paying more for pork and getting a significantly higher risk of human health problems than they previously had from domestic production.”

In the U.S., similar regulations were passed on the state level in Colorado. Within a year hog numbers dropped by 20 percent and pork production dropped by nearly 50 percent after these laws were passed.

In Colorado from 2000 to 2010, the value of the state’s swine industry dropped by nearly $600 million. Where did the loss of production go? It went south to New Mexico, where livestock value jumped by more than a billion dollars in the same time period.

Similar restrictive legislation in Florida, Virginia and Arkansas has cost these states an estimated $1.5 billion in lost value of their collective livestock industries over the past 10 years.

Williamson says similar changes in regulations that restrict the use of sub-therapeutics in Europe would cost the U.S. industry billions of dollars — just one change in production created by well-meaning, but misinformed politicians.

The American Animal Health Institute estimates that adding regulations on sub-therapeutic use similar to those imposed in Denmark and other European countries would force U.S. producers to raise 452 million chickens, 23 million cattle and 12 million hogs — just to maintain current levels of production.

Williamson added that changes in government regulations on labor may have similar negative impacts on the U.S. livestock industry. Recent passage of strict immigration laws in several Southern states is already impacting the ability of livestock producers to compete with other industries for labor.

Government sanctions and regulations aren’t doing much for the livestock industry, especially for pork and beef producers. Over the course of the past year, the government of Taiwan has increased inspections of U.S. beef and pork products.

The beef and pork industry notes that these inspections are not based on scientific data or standards and, if allowed to continue, may diminish consumer perception of U.S. beef and pork products in a key export market.

North Carolina Congressman Mike McIntyre is leading a charge that would help pork and beef in the Tar Heel state.

McIntyre joined a bipartisan group of members of the House of Representatives in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to express strong concerns regarding the non-science-based restrictions that Taiwan has placed on beef and pork imports from the U.S. 

The stakes are high, both Vincent and Williamson contend. In jobs alone, the U.S. livestock industry grew more than 100,000 jobs during the recent recession, bucking the loss of employment trend of most other U.S. industries.

The U.S. livestock industry generates more than $10 billion in income taxes and nearly $6 billion in property taxes annually — revenue the struggling U.S. economy simply can’t stand to lose.

(Even though there are troubles in the livestock industry, there are those making changes that will help them weather the storm. For instance, a Kentucky cattleman has figured out how to save on feed costs by stretching his grazing season through the winter. To see how he's doing that, visit http://southeastfarmpress.com/livestock/kentucky-cattleman-grazes-herd-straight-through-winter. Feeding dairy steers might be another profit source. For that information, see http://southeastfarmpress.com/livestock/feeding-dairy-steers-can-be-profit-center).

rroberson@farmpress.com