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California Could Ban Over-The-Counter Antibiotics For Livestock

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — California could become the first state in the nation to ban farmers from using over-the-counter antibiotics in livestock and poultry.

While the move could mean smaller farmers in rural areas will need to spend more time and money getting access to vets who can write prescriptions, big producers like Foster Farms have already embraced antibiotic-free farms as part of their marketing material.

Cattle and poultry farmers in California may soon be blazing a new trail in how they medically treat their animals.

"Livestock producers inside California inside the Central Valley are the most highly regulated commodities inside the United States," said UC Davis veterinarian Michael Payne.

He specializes in livestock pharmaceuticals and is closely watching a new law that could ban California farmers from using over-the-counter antibiotics in livestock and poultry. Prescription-only antibiotics would become law as a way to reduce resistance to the antibiotics in people.

"It doesn't matter where or how you use antibiotics," he said. "If you use them in children, if you use them in pets, inside livestock, you are going to be promoting some sort of resistance."

It's that old adage that you are what you eat. New studies show the overuse of antibiotics on the farm may be going onto store shelves and onto our dinner plates.

"This is a global problem, and we have to solve the problem to make it work," bill author state Sen. Jerry Hill said. "I think people are realizing, and especially when you look at the numbers, when you look at 23,000 people, that's 23,000 deaths from antibiotic resistant bacteria. There's nothing that could be done."

The bill goes to the agriculture committee on Wednesday. If it passes the full Senate and Assembly, it would go into effect in January 2016.

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