When one of the readers of our daily newsletter heard that the somatic cell count standard in the U.S. won’t be upgraded to 400,000 cells/ml, he responded in the reader-comment section:

“Get in the game folks!!! If other countries can easily achieve and abide by the 400,000 SCC standard and do it within as harsh environmental conditions as any state, then don’t use that excuse to say it can’t be done. 400,000 SCC is achievable. If there is a will, then there is a way. Get in the game folks!!!”

We agree.

For the sixth time in 14 years, the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments has turned down a request to upgrade the legal limit for somatic cell count from the current limit of 750,000 cells/ml. The action came last month on a 26 to 25 vote.

We can’t understand why the NCIMS would pass on this opportunity to improve milk-quality standards in the U.S.

Oh yes, there is the response from NCIMS that somatic cell count is not a human-health issue; therefore, it is not incumbent upon the organization to change the existing standards.

It’s starting to sound like a same old thing, over and over again.

Absolutely nothing has changed since we editorialized on this in the June 1999 issue of Dairy Herd Management. Back in 1999, the NCIMS pigeon-holed the proposal in committee. At least this time, the proposal got out of committee and appeared before the full delegate body. But the results were the same.

Here is an excerpt from that editorial in 1999:

“The bureaucrats who make up the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) did the bureaucratic thing when they met in Atlanta last month. In committee (or council), they pigeon-holed a proposal to toughen somatic cell count standards by giving it a “no action” label, and the proposal never did come up for discussion by the full delegate body.

“And, because the NCIMS only meets once every two years, the earliest it could come up again will be the spring of 2001.

“So much for that opportunity to improve milk quality.

“NCIMS concerns itself primarily with issues related to food safety, and the state regulators who make up the group’s membership apparently did not feel that the somatic cell count proposal fit within a food safety context.

“In 1991, however, the NCIMS voted to lower the maximum-allowable somatic cell count from 1 million to 750,000 cells/ml. (with the new standards taking effect in July 1993), so this course of action is certainly within its jurisdiction.

“We’re not proponents of the government stepping in and handling industry affairs. But, sometimes it’s necessary for a regulatory body like NCIMS to step in, act as referee, and send a message on behalf of the citizens it represents. This is particularly important when dealing with international trading issues. Most of the milk-producing countries of the world have far tougher somatic cell count standards than we do.

“The bureaucrats have passed on the issue, so now it’s up to the private sector to promote higher milk-quality standards.”

Nothing has changed since 1999. And, you can actually go back further than that when National Mastitis Council began petitioning for a stricter SCC standard.

It’s kind of scary.