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Veterinary Programs Win Funding in Senate-Approved Farm Bill

Posted: Feb. 4, 2014, 5:10 p.m. EST

The U.S. Senate today approved the long-awaited farm bill, a $956 billion package that authorizes an array of programs, including subsidies to farmers, food stamps for the poor and funding for a range of veterinary programs.

The American Veterinary Medical Association praised Congress for passing the bill, which the Schaumburg, Ill., organization stated will "allow the nation’s veterinarians and scientists to continue ensuring food safety, conducting important agriculture and animal research, and protecting the health and welfare of animals.”

The bill, which the House approved Jan. 29, now goes to President Obama, who is expected to sign it.

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture often refers to the Farm Bill as the ‘Food, Farm and Jobs Bill,’ but here at the AVMA, we’d like to add that it’s a bill for animals, too, because of its far-reaching impact on the work that veterinarians do every day to protect their health and welfare,” said Ron DeHaven, DVM, the AVMA’s executive vice president and CEO.

Farmers, ranchers, consumers and veterinarians all have a stake in the farm bill, which Congress takes up every few years.
"For several years now, the AVMA has urged policymakers to respond to the critical need for more agricultural research that supports advancements in animal health, production and products,” Dr. DeHaven added. "We are pleased that Congress answered that call by passing a bipartisan bill that gives veterinarians and scientists the resources they need to continue providing the best veterinary care to animals, guarding our nation against diseases that impact animal and public health, advancing science, and keeping America’s food supply safe and affordable.”

The bill, nearly four years in the making, funds numerous veterinary programs, AVMA reported. The legislation:

• Authorizes up to $15 million annually for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, a disease surveillance program that allows veterinarians and scientists to test for everything from mad cow disease and foot-and-mouth disease to avian and swine influenza and swine fever.

• Authorizes up to $10 million annually to establish the Veterinary Services Grant Program, a complement to the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program. The new program is designed to relieve veterinary shortage situations and support "private veterinary practices that are engaged in public health activities in rural and underserved areas of the country,” AVMA stated.

• Expands the Animal Health and Disease Research/1433 Formula Funds, "which have traditionally focused on animal health and disease research and will now include a competitive grants program that will focus on three areas: food security, One Health and stewardship,” AVMA noted.

• Establishes the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, which would provide $200 million for "new research projects aimed at addressing key problems of national and international significance, including knowledge gaps in animal and plant health, food production and products, food safety, and nutrition and health,” according to AVMA.

• Reauthorizes up to $2.5 million annually for the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank.

• Reauthorizes up to $700 million annually for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

The farm bill also addresses animal fighting, making attendance at dogfights, cockfights and similar events a federal crime. Bringing a child to an animal fight also would be a federal crime.

One disappointment for AVMA was the lack of movement on the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act. The organization had hoped that the legislation would be added to the farm bill, but the act remained in the House Energy and Commerce Committee after its Senate approval Jan. 8.

The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act would authorize veterinarians to administer certain drugs away from their registered home or office. The legislation would close a legal loophole that has led to the issuance of warning letters to rural, mobile and ambulatory veterinarians whose normal duties require them to transport and dispense medication while on the road.


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