Speaking at the 9th annual ”New York Farm Day,” U.S. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish an emergency rule change to reduce the U.S. regulatory on somatic cell count (SCC) to preserve the European Union (EU) export market for U.S. dairy farmers. Gillibrand also introduced legislation that would lower the legal SCC in fluid milk from 750,000 cells per milliliter (c/ml) to 400,000 c/ml.
According to Gillibrand, the European Union (EU) announced that it would no longer accept dairy exports from the U.S. unless they adopt a national standard somatic cell count of 400,000 c/ml or less, starting in December. She said the EU ban would have disastrous consequences for U.S. cheese and whey products.
Senator Gillibrand called on FDA to make an emergency rule change to preserve this export market for U.S. dairy farmers. She also introduced legislation that would lower the legal somatic cell count (SCC) in fluid milk from 750,000 c/ml to 400,000 cells/milliliter. This legislation would also change the method of calculation to update U.S. milk quality standards and bring them in line with those of our major dairy trading partners and competitors, including Canada, the EU, and New Zealand.
In 2008, the average SCC in the U.S. was 262,000 cells/ml, which is far below the legal limit of 750,000 cells/ml.
Lowering the SCC legal limit will have potential benefits for both producers and consumers, Gillibrand said. Milk with low SCC has a longer shelf life, better taste and greater cheese yield. Studies have shown that for every doubling of somatic cell counts in a herd, milk production drops by 400 lbs. per cow per lactation. Many cooperatives already provide incentives for farmers to produce milk under the legal SCC limit, and for the last 7 years the national average SCC count has declined.