April 15, 2009

 

 NVMSA, FARAD part of billion-dollar funding bill - April 15, 2009

 

posted April 1, 2009

The veterinary profession has reason to cheer the $410 billion spending bill President Barack Obama signed March 11.

Included in the fiscal 2009 omnibus legislation are millions of dollars for AVMA-backed programs, such as the National Veterinary Medical Service Act and Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank, as well as expenditures for veterinary education and several animal health initiatives.

"This was a good day for the AVMA," said Gina Luke, an assistant director of the AVMA Governmental Relations Division.

The appropriations bill provides funding for nine federal departments. Some agencies saw increases of as much as 10 percent or more above fiscal 2008 appropriations.

Congress included $2.95 million for NVMSA—the AVMA's highest funding priority. In exchange for a commitment to work in underserved areas of veterinary medicine, recipients are granted student loan repayment. The bill was signed into law in 2003, but its implementation has been delayed by the Agriculture Department, which is still in the process of promulgating regulations for the program.

"More than five years after the legislation was passed by Congress, it looks like all the pieces are finally coming together for NVMSA," commented AVMA CEO W. Ron DeHaven. "With this funding, and implementing regulations expected soon from the USDA, it looks like this important program will become functional soon."

FARAD, a program until recently on the brink of extinction because of insufficient funding, received a desperately needed $806,000 appropriation. A number of organizations including the AVMA had donated more than $16,000 to keep the program running in the short term, but a major cash infusion was needed.

"I am very relieved because we were basically going to have to shut FARAD forever by the end of summer," said Dr. Alistair Webb, one of the program's three directors and a professor at the University of Florida-Gainesville.

The money will keep FARAD going for another year without additional layoffs, Dr. Webb explained.

Also in the omnibus bill was a $2.95 million boost to Section 1433 Formula Funds, which support research on diseases in food animals at the nation's veterinary colleges and veterinary science departments.

The Department of Agriculture's National Animal Identification System, which the AVMA believes is necessary (see page 990), received $14.5 million to cover the costs of administration, implementation, and information technology infrastructure development.

Additionally, Congress appropriated $1.2 billion to the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service; $1.1 billion to the USDA Agricultural Research Service; $129.2 million to the USDA Animal Health Monitoring and Surveillance program; $5.9 million to the USDA aquaculture program; $560,000 to the USDA Animal Welfare Information Center; $116.5 million to the Food and Drug Administration Animal Drugs and Feed program; and $429,000 to the FDA NRSP-7 Minor Use Animal Drug program.

Tuberculosis eradication and Johne's disease research received $15.6 million and $6.8 million, respectively.