For the second time in as many years, the National Conference on Interstate Milk Shipments (NCIMS) has rejected a proposal to lower the legal limit for somatic cell counts in milk.

Actually, the full Conference never got a chance to vote on the proposal, since it never made it out of council or committee. The same thing happened two years ago, ostensibly because the somatic cell count proposal was not a food safety issue.

The NCIMS, which is made up largely of state health department officials, met in early May in Wichita, Kan.

However, the reluctance of NCIMS to lower the somatic cell count standard from 750,000 cells per milliliter to 400,000 may not matter in the long run. The somatic cell count issue may ultimately be determined by the marketplace. New technologies, such as ultrafiltration and extended-shelf-life pasteurization, require milk with low somatic cell and bacteria counts. Increasingly, producers will find they need to produce milk of consistent high quality (i.e., low somatic cell and bacterial counts) in order to ensure market access. To learn more about the role of milk quality with these new technologies, check out the special Milk Quality section in the June 2001 issue of Dairy Herd Management.