Bipartisan legislation addressing the nation's veterinary needs passed the House of Representatives Sept. 15.
The Veterinary Services Investment Act would set up a grant program designed to relieve veterinary shortages while supporting a broad range of veterinary services, including veterinarian and veterinary technician recruitment and retention, and continuing education programs.
Nebraska Rep. Adrian Smith called it "absolutely necessary" for farmers, ranchers, and those caring for animals to have access to qualified local veterinary clinics. "Unfortunately, too many rural communities don't have this necessary resource. The Veterinary Services Investment Act will make a difference," Smith said.
The House bill authorizes grant funds to be used in the following ways:
- Recruit, place, and retain veterinarians, veterinary technicians, veterinary students, and veterinary technology students.
- Assist veterinarians with establishing or expanding practices by equipping veterinary offices, sharing in the overhead costs of such practices, or establishing mobile veterinary facilities that will at least in part address education or extension needs.
- Provide financial assistance for expenses other than tuition for veterinary students, veterinary interns and externs, fellows and residents, and veterinary technician students to attend training programs in food safety or food animal medicine.
- Support programs, in coordination with accredited colleges of veterinary medicine, that establish or expand accredited education programs, veterinary residency and fellowship programs, and veterinary internship and externship programs.
- Support programs for tele-veterinary medicine that contribute at least in part to veterinary extension, education, or research.
- Support the ability of state veterinarians or animal health officials to coordinate veterinary services and food protection issues.
- Assess veterinary shortage areas.
- Support continuing education and extension programs, including distance-based education, for veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and other health professionals that will strengthen veterinary programs and enhance food safety.
- Recruit and retain faculty at AVMA-accredited veterinary schools and colleges.
- Support programs, in coordination with universities or local education agencies, to encourage students in secondary schools to pursue a career in veterinary medicine or other science professions.
Among those who would be eligible to apply for a grant are for-profit and nonprofit veterinary clinics located in rural areas and "a state, national, allied, or regional veterinary organization, a specialty board, or veterinary medical association" recognized by the AVMA.
Veterinary colleges, university research and veterinary medical foundations, departments of veterinary science and comparative medicine, state agricultural experiment stations, and state, local, and tribal government agencies would also be eligible to apply for grants under the VSIA.
VSIA has the backing of 105 organizations and associations, including the AVMA, American Farm Bureau Federation, U.S. Animal Health Association, and American Horse Council. "We are excited and grateful our representatives passed this bill. It is obvious our representatives in Washington, D.C., have begun to understand the critical role of large-animal, mixed animal, and public health veterinarians play in protecting livestock and ultimately consumers in the United States," said Dr. Larry M. Kornegay, AVMA president.
The Senate version of the VSIA is currently under consideration by the Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee.
AVMA members are encouraged to ask their senators to support the legislation. Visit the AVMA-CAN Government Action Center on the AVMA website, www.avma.org, by clicking on "Get Involved" in the Advocacy section. For more information about the bill, contact Gina Luke at the AVMA Governmental Relations Division at (800) 321-1473, Ext. 3204, or e-mail.