Recommendations for improvements in livestock production from a group composed mainly of individuals opposed to modern livestock production would do little other than raise the cost of producing food and increase meat prices in the face of a global food crisis, according to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

Based on its $3.4 million, two-year study of the impact of livestock production practices, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production recommended phasing out certain production practices, banning certain animal antibiotics and placing new restrictions on the use of manure.

NPPC responded that the commission's findings overlook substantial progress the pork industry has made in all of those key areas.

“Pork producers have taken extensive steps over the last decade to meet various industry challenges,” declares NPPC President Bryan Black, Canal Winchester, OH.

For example, data from eight of the top 10 swine-producing states shows that since 2000, less than 1% of hog farms have had an accidental release of manure.

NPPC also pointed out that a tough new federal water pollution rule covering confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), due out late this summer, will protect water resources from pollution by large livestock operations by imposing a zero discharge policy. Most swine CAFOs already comply with this rule.

Further, the Environmental Protection Agency recently commissioned a first-of-its kind, livestock industry-supported study to determine the level of air pollution from all types of livestock operations. Its findings will help ensure air emissions from livestock operations don't harm the environment.

The Pew commission's call for a ban on subtherapeutic drugs would cause more pig deaths and an increase in the use of therapeutic drugs, says NPPC. Both actions would cause a rise in pork prices.

In response to the commission's portrayal of large animal feeding operations as bad for the rural economy, NPPC pointed out that pork operations alone generate more than 550,000 mostly rural jobs and add about $20.7 billion of personal income and $34.5 billion of gross national product to the economy.

NPPC also questioned the balance of the commission's members.

“There was a lack of balance among commission members, and the commission's work was directed by a group unfriendly to animal agriculture,” says Black. “As a result, in its deliberations, the commission did not give adequate weight to the views of the numerous credible voices from within commercial animal agriculture who shared the commission's objectives for a livestock sector that is protective of the environment, food safety, public health and animal welfare.

“Lastly, it's hard for us to react to the substance of the commission report because it failed to issue all but one of its technical papers,” adds Black. “The lack of serious, fact-based findings and apparent reliance on numerous anecdotal, non-peer reviewed allegations only confirms our perception that the report recommendations were largely predetermined.”