President’s New Budget Proposal Good on Antibiotics

From where I sit, there’s a lot to like in the President’s budget.

Food & farming

Bill Wenzel

The 2017 Budget Request released yesterday by the Obama Administration makes significant investments to combat the growing public health threats associated with antibiotic resistance. From where I sit, there’s a lot to like in the President’s budget.

The President requested $877M to implement the National Action Plan for Combatting Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (CARB).  This represents an increase of $43M over his 2016 Budget Request and eclipses the amount of funding currently provided through the Congressional appropriations processes.

The new budget also dedicates significant funding to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct research, collect data and develop educational programs targeting antibiotics and antibiotic resistance in agriculture, including:

  • $30.1M in Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) funding for research on antimicrobial resistance strategies that target challenges facing producers regarding antibiotic resistant bacteria and investing in research exploring alternatives to antibiotic use in livestock and poultry production,
  • $28M to AFRI to develop, refine and disseminate science-based knowledge on animal health and production practices to reduce the threat of antibiotic resistance.
  • $17M to fund Agriculture Research Service (ARS) research focused on the antimicrobial resistance and the relationship among microbes and livestock, the environment and human health,
  • $10M to the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to enhance monitoring on antibiotic resistant bacteria in livestock, and
  • $2M to the National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) to enhance existing surveys on antibiotic resistance.

We applaud the President for making the elimination of the public health threat created by antibiotic resistance a priority for his Administration. We encourage the Congress to take similar decisive action to provide the needed funds to cure this scourge on the nation’s public health that afflicts millions of Americans and takes tens of thousands lives in this country annually.

But let me add this: while funding is necessary to eliminate the long term threat of antibiotic resistance and to preserve the continued effectiveness of the life-saving medicines that we have come to take for granted, there is one proven strategy that can and should be adopted that would immediately reduce the threat of antibiotic resistance — end the routine use of antibiotics on livestock and poultry. 

California has already done this. Now the nation needs to follow suit.

It is incontrovertible that the routine use of antibiotics, a practice common to livestock and poultry production on factory farms, is a significant contributor to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. An immediate prohibition on the use of antibiotics on farms, except for the treatment of disease or the prevention of an epidemic, would be a major step forward in eliminating the public health threat of antibiotic resistance. 

If there is political will to fund valuable programs to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics, surely there is the will to eliminate the overuse of antibiotics in farming practices. Doing so will save American lives.



Bill Wenzel