BEVERLY, W.Va. (WBOY) — Farmers from across the region gathered at Camp Pioneer in Beverly to discuss changes by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that will be implemented.

“On June 1, over-the-counter antibiotics are not going to be available like they are to livestock producers. So, they are going to need some sort of veterinarian relationship, said Jody Carpenter, WVU Extension Services Agriculture and Natural Resource Agent.

According to agriculture and natural resource officials, changes will be happening during the summer. That change will be how certain antibiotics will be made available to farmers for their livestock. The biggest change for farmers is that they will no longer be able to purchase over-the-counter antibiotics from local stores. Instead, they will have to get a prescription and go through a veterinarian to get antibiotics for their livestock.

“So, the FDA came down with guidance about antimicrobials, so the antibiotics that we are used to using. So, in 2017, they came down with a veterinarian feed directive guidance and that is when all the antimicrobials that were used in feeds were then we had to have a prescription type of thing, it’s called a veterinarian feed directive from your veterinarian. And then those went to the feed mills, and then you could get the feed that you need. The continuation of that is now coming to play,” said Vanessa Harper, an Assistant Area Veterinarian in Charge with the United States Department of Agriculture for West Virginia.

That guidance was put out a notice in their Federal Register in February of 2018 regarding what the FDA is calling “The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals.” The final guidance was published in June 2021 with the FDA’s Guidance for Industry Number 263.

“In June 2023, they’re going to pull all the over-the-counter antibiotics off the shelf. Those antibiotics we’re used to getting at Tractor Supply or Southern States, those are not going to be available. And what they are going to do is we are going to have to have a relationship with a veterinarian,” Harper said. “And what that is going to require is a veterinarian-client-patient relationship where the Vet will have to come to the farm at least once that year and see your animals and then they can write you a prescription for those antibiotics. And then you can use those in your animals just like you’ve done before.”

During the meeting, officials with the USDA explained to farmers how to navigate the upcoming changes being made by the FDA regarding access to medicine and the increased costs associated with the changes.

“I think it is going to be a good thing in regards to antimicrobial resistance which is why this is happening. You know, we want to protect the antibiotics that we have to make sure they are still useful and they don’t lose their effectiveness,” Harper said. “It is going to be a little more of hoop to jump through but I think it is going to be better for everyone in the long run.”

Harper also said there are going to be costs associated with the change for both the farmers and veterinarians. They also said that there are not very many large animal veterinarians around the area so the farmers will have to reach out early to establish those relationships with veterinarians.

“When it comes to animal husbandry farmers obviously want to provide the best product. So, that really motivates them to take care of those animals and make sure they are providing, you know, low-stress animals defiantly produce better quality product. So, farmers def care what they are selling,” said Jessie Pennell, West Virginia Beef Industry Specialist. “Obviously treatment, the faster you can get it the better. So, it does add an obstacle, it does add some time that might be precious of livestock. So, any loss of livestock is definitely a huge loss of profit. So, it could definitely be a concern.”

USDA officials said that if the veterinarian is familiar with the farmer and what they are doing on their farm it may just be a phone call to get a prescription for antibiotics because of an established veterinarian-client-patient relationship. They said that if not, a veterinarian may have to come to the farm for a visit in order to treat the livestock.