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Monday, December 20, 2010

Potential Trade Implications of Restrictions on Antimicrobial Use in Animal Production

Renée Johnson
Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Exports of U.S. livestock and poultry products are important both to farmers and to the U.S. economy. In 2009, U.S. livestock and poultry exports were valued at more than $10 billion, accounting for about 12% of total global meat trade (estimated at nearly $87 billion in 2009).

Growing concerns about antimicrobial resistance have caused some U.S. trading partners and competitors to implement restrictions and prohibitions on the use of certain antimicrobials for subtherapeutic or nontherapeutic purposes in animal production. Although antibiotic use in animals has not been a significant factor affecting U.S. trade in meat products to date, evidence suggests that country restrictions on the use of these drugs could become an issue in the future and could affect U.S. export markets for livestock and poultry products.

At issue is whether increased restrictions and prohibitions on the use of certain drugs in animal feed in some countries, including the European Union (EU), New Zealand, and South Korea, could affect or may already be affecting international trade in livestock and poultry products from countries, such as the United States, that do not actively restrict the use of these drugs for growth promotion in animal production.

In the United States, legislation has been introduced that seeks to restrict the use of certain antimicrobial drugs for subtherapeutic or nontherapeutic purposes in food-producing animals. In the 111
th Congress, the leading bill was the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1549; S. 619). Most U.S. livestock and poultry producers are opposed to such restrictions because of concerns about animal welfare and food safety, as well as concerns about possible increases in production costs, among other reasons.

Presently, it is not possible to precisely predict or to provide a quantitative assessment of the potential trade implications of future restrictions on antimicrobial use in food animal production. Given the number of market variables that would need to be evaluated, along with other trade issues facing U.S. meat exporters in global markets, it is difficult to precisely predict trade implications of possible future restrictions on antimicrobials in animal feed in selected countries. However, it is possible to examine the range of possible outcomes from two scenarios involving potential trade implications for U.S. livestock and poultry exports from tightened restrictions or prohibitions on the use of antimicrobial drugs in animal feed for growth promotion: 
  • Scenario 1: Tightened restrictions or prohibitions in key U.S. export markets, without corresponding changes in the United States on the use of antimicrobials in animal feed for growth promotion. 
  • Scenario 2: Tightened restrictions or prohibitions in key U.S. export markets, with corresponding prohibitions in the United States on the use of antimicrobials in animal feed for growth promotion. 
This report discusses the possible outcomes under these scenarios in terms of changes in U.S. livestock and poultry exports and changes in U.S. market share in global meat markets.

Date of Report: December 8, 2010
Number of Pages: 20
Order Number: R41047
Price: $29.95

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