President's message

March and April, 1998

Greetings from Southeastern Indiana! As I write this today, we have just celebrated the New Year and look forward to approaching the challenges that a new year always brings.

One current challenge for the swine industry is the issue of antimicrobial resistance. The impact of this on public health continues to receive considerable attention. Antimicrobial use in animals is being blamed for the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria in humans. Statements in the media have created the mistaken assumption that there is conclusive evidence that antibiotic use in animals is creating a major public health problem; however, the scientific data is far from conclusive.

We cannot ignore this issue. Neither can we allow the blame to be assigned with no regard to science. This debate is not limited to the United States: the World Health Organization (WHO) recently held a very controversial meeting in Berlin. The meeting was widely criticized for its lack of science and balance in addressing the issues. The recommendations that emerged from this meeting were biased toward severely limiting antimicrobial use in animals. A second meeting was planned to specifically address the use of fluoroquinolones in animals.

The AASP is concerned about the influence these meetings will have on current and future animal drug approvals in the United States. It was some relief when the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) of the United States Food and Drug Administration withdrew from participation in the second WHO meeting. This sent a clear message demonstrating the CVM's commitment to preserving human and animal health while ensuring the availability of safe and effective animal drugs.

Your AASP and the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) have formed a joint task force to study the issue of antimicrobial resistance. We are working hard to keep the lines of communication open between our organization and the other stakeholders in animal agriculture and public health. The AASP remains committed to a balanced and scientific approach to this issue in order to serve the best interests of its members.

Education needs to be a major focus for practitioners. The increased need for information in these areas will continue to make us work hard to keep abreast of the latest scientific information. Staying current involves lots of different forms of continuing education--be sure to take advantage of the things that your AASP can do for you.

As we move into the new year, cash hog prices have continued to be pushed down, which always makes dealing with customers a challenge. However, I have found that when we have had low hog markets in the past, practice actually can be more busy and more fun.

It is important that we always assess the position of our businesses. I am obviously speaking from a practitioner's point of view, but this applies to veterinarians whatever their field of swine practice is. We need to assess what we can do to deliver services to our customers. We need to, point blank, ask producers what their needs are as well as help focus producers toward areas and needs that they may not see on their own.

Many new areas of focus will involve the practitioner, making our jobs very hectic and busy. In addition to our normal preventive health and production areas, practitioner involvement with Pork Quality Assurance(TM) (PQA), environmental considerations, and food safety will continue to accelerate. This will give practitioners a tremendous number of new opportunities to provide more service to their clients.

The upcoming Annual Meeting in Des Moines will be an excellent opportunity to hear the latest information presented as well as to interact with colleagues. We look forward to seeing you in Des Moines this March.

--Larry Rueff