Legislation introduced yesterday by U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, aims to direct resources to help solve the problem of the veterinarian and veterinary medical service shortage in areas designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) President Larry Kornegay, DVM, called the introduction of the Veterinary Services Investment Act (VSIA) as an important step toward addressing veterinary workforce needs.
“Shortages of large and mixed-animal, as well as public health veterinarians could have dire consequences on human and animal health, public safety, animal welfare, disease surveillance and economic development,” Dr. Kornegay said. “The USDA has worked with state animal health officials across the country to identify areas that have dire needs. This legislation will directly help address these needs, ensuring the well-being of livestock and helping protect public health.”
S. 1053, (VSIA), will establish a competitive grant program to develop, implement and sustain necessary veterinary medical services to those areas of the country in need.
“Veterinary services are critical in ensuring a strong and robust agricultural industry in Michigan and too many rural areas are lacking adequate support,” Stabenow says. “This legislation will address vet shortages while also creating good-paying jobs, improving food safety and continuing to strengthen Michigan’s agricultural sector which supports one in four jobs in Michigan. As Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I'm focused on helping our agricultural sector to continue to grow and create jobs, and this bill will help to do that.”
AVMA states that 500 counties in the U.S. each have more than 5,000 farm animals but no veterinarians in the area to treat them. Veterinarians safeguard food supplies and monitor the threat of zoonotic diseases such as avian influenza, making an adequate number of veterinarians to fill this need vital. In the last 25 years, 75 percent of all the emerging diseases in humans were zoonotic.
“The demand for veterinarians across the U.S. could increase by 14 percent by 2016,” Kornegay says. “This shortage not only affects the well-being of farmers and livestock but can have negative public health consequences.”
The legislation will provide grants for:
• Assistance for establishing or expanding veterinary practices or establishing mobile veterinary facilities;
• Veterinarian, technician and student recruitment;
• Attendance at training programs in food safety or food animal medicine;
• Establishment or expansion of accredited education, internship, residency and fellowship programs;
• Continuing education and extension, including tele-veterinary medicine and other distance-based education; and
• Research assessing the veterinarian shortage situations
U.S. Senators cosponsoring the legislation include Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii); Michael Bennet (D-Colo.); Roy Blunt (R-Mo.); Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio); Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga); Kent Conrad (D-N.D.); Al Franken (D-Minn.); Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.); Tim Johnson (D-S.D.); Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); Mary Landrieu (D-La.); Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.); and Mark Udall (D-Colo.)