sheep show at Illinois State Fair
DISAPPOINTED: The Livestock Working Group is disappointed IDOA didn’t take more of its recommendations, given the extensive work the group did to collect information from other state fairs, veterinarians and meat-animal experts.

Zero tolerance still the rule at Illinois State Fair

Industry leaders say rule changes at the Illinois State Fair make the rules less clear and harder to follow.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture has released the 2017 Illinois State Fair Livestock Premium Book, including rule changes made in the aftermath of drug testing problems during the 2016 Illinois State Fair.

According to Reid Blossom, Illinois Beef Association, IDOA took some of the many suggestions made by the Livestock Working Group, a committee of industry experts formed at the invitation of the department to evaluate and provide recommendations regarding drug testing. During last year’s state fair, one junior exhibitor was falsely accused of using an approved drug, and another was disqualified for use of a Benadryl cream and banned from state fair exhibition for three years.

Rebecca Clark, IDOA communications manager, calls the changes a good first step and says the department looks forward to continuing to work with the ag community.

Paul Walker, Illinois State University professor emeritus and LWG member, says IDOA did make some positive changes, but overall, the new rules are more confusing and less clear than before.

“The working group talked to experts, had experts on their panel, made solid recommendations, and they were not interpreted by IDOA the way the working group recommended them,” Walker says. “So while there’s some good points in there with what they did, I think they’ve opened themselves up to lawsuits with their current language.”

The LWG recommended zero tolerance for illegal drugs like clenbuterol and diethylstilbesterol, and asked that they be listed in the premium book. IDOA did take that recommendation and has listed those banned drugs in the premium book. If found in an animal, these drugs would result in a higher penalty for the exhibitor: a five-year ban for the first offense and a lifetime ban for the second offense. The LWG recommended three- and five-year bans.

On use of approved medications, the LWG recommended following industry-standard withdrawal times, but IDOA stuck with its zero-tolerance policy. The ISF Livestock Premium Book does not allow residues in an animal, meaning animals exhibited at the state fair are held to a higher standard than market animals across the industry. USDA allows use of approved medications, using withdrawal periods so the compound is not present in meat at slaughter. ISF policy now says animals must arrive on the fairgrounds “free and clear” of all drug and chemical residues, and must remain free and clear once on the fairgrounds.

“The LWG was trying to bring the state fair’s stance in line with what’s practiced in the industry. That means prioritizing food safety and animal welfare the way Illinois farmers do on their farms every day,” says Blossom.

When asked why the department stuck with zero tolerance on approved drugs, IDOA says in an email that animals must remain free and clear of all drug residues, underscoring it’s still a violation if a test result shows a drug presence over the residue limit set by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Their way of writing made it worse and made it confusing,” Walker says. “To start with, they say all animals have to be ‘free and clear.’ Then later on, they talk about maximum-FDA-allowable residue. ‘Free and clear’ and ‘maximum-allowable residue’ are not synonymous. They’re not the same thing. Free and clear means zero tolerance.”

A quick glance at the changes:

• IDOA will collect and test urine samples following the selection of champions; that sample becomes property of IDOA.

• IDOA plans to collect urine samples in an adjacent building following the Parade of Champions, out of the public eye.

• Tests will continue to be qualitative, not quantitative (all urine tests are qualitative).

• Exhibitors may request samples be tested again.

• Any painkiller detected in an animal’s urine is a violation.

• Detection of flunixin or any form of banamine in the urine sample is a violation, as they are anti-inflammatory fever reducers and pain relievers.

• It is a violation if urine tests positive for steroids, diuretics, anti-inflammatories, painkillers or tranquilizers, as these are categorized to offer a competitive advantage.

• Off-label drugs prescribed by a licensed veterinarian, if disclosed at check-in, are allowed.

• Exhibitors must list any non-FDA-approved drugs at check-in, using an AMDUCA form that will be available from IDOA. Failure to do so could result in disqualification if the medication shows up in a urine or tissue test. According to Clark, AMDUCA form use applies only to market animals. It is unclear whether it’s required for FDA-approved pharmaceuticals, as well. (AMDUCA is the Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act of 1994.)

• ISF encourages exhibitors who administer medication to animals prior to the state fair to read labels closely for any “ingredient that could be considered to give the animal a competitive advantage. It generally takes longer than the labeled withdrawal time for no drug residue to be found in an animal.”

• Animals on the grounds may only be treated under supervision of the state fair veterinarian, and that may still disqualify an animal from competition. This includes dairy exhibitors and breeding animals.

• The ban on use of nonapproved FDA drugs applies to market animals.

• The ban on use of performance-enhancing medications like steroids, diuretics, anti-inflammatories, etc., applies to breeding and market animals.

• Animals and exhibitors can be disqualified before or after the Sale of Champions.

• Hearings to dispute disqualifications may not occur before the Sale of Champions; they occur at IDOA’s discretion and if the department believes there is adequate time. IDOA has declined to define “adequate time.”

• If disqualification occurs after the sale, exhibitors can request a hearing within seven days of disqualification, and it must be granted within seven days of the request.

• If the Land of Lincoln Champion is also the overall Grand Champion, the reserve Land of Lincoln will also sell in the Sale of Champions.

For more changes, check out Section 3 in the premium book, beginning on Page 19.

When asked whether the premium book changes would address the false accusation situation surrounding Adam Miller and his steer in 2016, Clark says the revisions do not address how IDOA determines whether a drug is approved by the FDA. However, she says IDOA has created new internal policy to address the situation: It will consult FARAD (the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank) and two FDA sources as part of its review procedure.

Exhibitor takeaway?
“Talk to your veterinarian and be on the same page with them leading up to the state fair,” Blossom recommends. “Use the AMDUCA form at check-in to be totally transparent with show officials. The zero-tolerance standard is still in the rule book, so know how that applies to your treatment of your animals.”

Walker concurs. “With these new rules, if you’re an exhibitor — particularly with a market animal — don’t give them anything if you want to show and win. It’s just like the old rules. If your goal is to show and win, you better not give them anything. Because I don’t think it’s clear.”

Blossom says the gray areas still persist, despite the rule changes.

“Under the zero-tolerance policy, there’s always the chance that an unknowing family will commit a violation without any malice, and that’s not good when the rules are in place to weed out bad actors,” Blossom says.

For sure, Walker is disappointed IDOA didn’t take more of the LWG’s recommendations, given the extensive work the group did to collect information from other state fairs, veterinarians and meat-animal experts.

“They just didn’t make the rules more clear,” he concludes.

Sale of Champions formula changes
IDOA also changed the distribution of monies from the Sale of Champions, where the goal was to “reward more youth exhibitors.” The LWG neither proposed nor weighed in on these changes.

The new formula:
• 50% of the auction funds go to the grand champion junior exhibitor
• 15% to the reserve champion junior exhibitor
• 15% divided evenly among the exhibitors of other breed champions
• 10% to the Illinois 4-H Foundation
• 10% to the Illinois FFA Foundation

Land of Lincoln sale money distribution is similar:
• 50% of the auction funds go to the junior exhibitor
• 12.5% to the reserve champion exhibitor
• 12.5% divided evenly among the exhibitors of other breed champions
• 10% to the Illinois 4-H Foundation
• 10% to the Illinois FFA Foundation
• 5% to the Land of Lincoln Purebred Breeders Association

IDOA has confirmed that should a champion animal be disqualified during postharvest testing, the reserve champion will not collect the purse for both grand and reserve grand champions.

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