January 01, 2011


 AVMA sees measured success in 111th Congress

By R. Scott Nolen
Posted Dec. 19, 2010 

The 111th Congress kept the AVMA busy.

In this past Congress, which began in January 2009 and concluded in December 2010, legislators introduced and approved a host of veterinary-related legislation and called AVMA representatives to Capitol Hill to offer expert testimony.

"Of all my years in D.C., this Congress has been among the most active," said Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, who started working for the AVMA in Washington, D.C., nearly eight years ago and oversees the Association's Governmental Relations Division.

"Did everything get passed? No, but overall we've been pretty successful," he said.

Of note was President Obama's signing into law of two AVMA-supported bills: the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act and the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Act. The new jobs and credit law aims to boost small businesses by, among other things, increasing the maximum deduction for business start-up expenditures in 2010-2011. The stamp act directs some proceeds from stamp sales to support a number of wildlife conservation funds.

And, although Congress was in a lame-duck session at press time in December, the House of Representatives and Senate passed legislation banning the interstate commerce of animal crush videos—a bill the president is expected to sign into law.

They also passed a resolution expressing support for designating 2011 as World Veterinary Year to bring attention to, and show appreciation for, the veterinary profession on its 250th anniversary.

The Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act had cleared Congress, but at press time it wasn't clear whether the differences between the House and Senate versions would be resolved before the new session began.

Other highlights include AVMA staff testifying at congressional hearings on a national livestock identification program and antimicrobial use in food animals. This past fall, the Department of Agriculture announced the first round of awards for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, totaling nearly $6 million.

The AVMA supported legislation addressing veterinary workforce shortages in food animal medicine, wildlife conservation, and public health as well as efforts to enhance food safety systems and exempt veterinary practices with 20 or fewer employees from having to comply with the Red Flags Rule, which would require programs to prevent identity theft. Congress passed Red Flags legislation shortly before press time; more details will follow in the Jan. 15 JAVMA News.

The Association also worked closely with Senate and House agriculture committees on spending priorities in the 2011 agriculture appropriations bill. Funding initiatives include the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank, animal health and disease research, and veterinary loan repayment.

Legislation opposed by the AVMA—one bill banning the transportation of horses for slaughter and the other limiting the availability of antimicrobials in food animal medicine—failed to advance in either the House or Senate.

Dr. Lutschaunig attributes the AVMA's success in Washington to the public's high respect for veterinarians, and he encouraged veterinarians to become more involved in the political process. "If there's anything this election taught us, it's that every vote counts," he said.