Food safety, workforce issues at forefront of agenda
The Executive Board approved positions on several veterinary-related bills and prioritized the Association's FY 2012 appropriations initiatives.
On recommendation of the Legislative Advisory Committee, the board directed the Governmental Relations Division staff to actively pursue fiscal year 2012 appropriations for the following: $6 million for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program; $14 million for Animal Traceability Systems for Animal Disease; $5 million for the National Veterinary Accreditation Program; and $3 million for the Veterinary Services Investment Act—if passed in the 111th Congress.
The board also approved LAC recommendations of nonsupport by the AVMA for four bills introduced in the 111th Congress. The bills did not advance before the session ended in December 2010 but may be reintroduced in the 112th Congress. The LAC made its recommendations after consulting with appropriate AVMA entities. Those bills are as follows:
- The Poison-Free Poultry Act would ban the arsenic compound known as roxarsone as a food additive. The AVMA Food Safety Advisory Committee and Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine recognized the importance of roxarsone as a coccidiostat to the poultry industry and decided that evidence of harm to the environment is inconclusive. The AVMA Clinical Practitioners Advisory Committee was concerned the legislation would pre-empt the Food and Drug Administration's previous scientific evaluation and approval of the feed additive. In addition to pre-emption of the FDA's authority, the legislation could result in higher parasite loads, subclinically infected animals entering the food supply, and diminished availability of drugs that can also aid in the prevention of swine dysentery.
- The E. coli Eradication Act would require that slaughterhouses, processing establishments, and grinding facilities perform specified tests for the presence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in ground beef. The bill would also subject imported trim, bench trim, and ground beef to the same testing requirements as domestic trim, bench trim, and ground beef. The AVMA Food Safety Advisory Committee and the Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine believe the proposed programs would create redundancy with current food safety regulations. The council and committee also find such requirements would unnecessarily increase production costs, especially when there is no current, compelling need for such legislative action, as prevalence of E coli O157:H7 in ground beef has been steadily decreasing under existing programs.
- The E. coli Traceability and Eradication Act would develop a sampling and testing program for E coli in boneless beef manufacturing trimming and other raw ground beef components. As with the E. coli Eradication Act, the AVMA Food Safety Advisory Committee and the Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine believe the proposed programs are redundant.
- Legislation to revise the definition of the term "adulterated" to include contamination with E coli. The AVMA Food Safety Advisory Committee and Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine believe that the Department of Agriculture has the regulatory and oversight mechanisms it needs in place and that further legislative action is unnecessary.
The board also approved a recommendation of no action on the amended version of S. 373, which specifically lists the following species of the Python and related genera as injurious animals: Python molurus, Broghammerus reticulatus, P sebae, P natalensis, Boa constrictor, Eunectes notaeus, E deschauenseei, E murinus, and E beniensis. The Committee on Environmental Issues is supportive of the listed species in the amended bill but is concerned with the method by which policymakers determined the list of injurious species.
According to the CEI, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service follows a structured, scientifically based evaluation process looking at economic and environmental aspects, risks, and impacts, whereas the legislation circumvents this review, which, in the CEI's opinion, is the preferred way of developing public policy.
Additionally, the board approved a revised policy on AVMA Fellowship Stipends. Beginning in September 2011, fellowship stipends will no longer automatically increase 3 percent annually but will instead receive the same cost-of-living adjustments applied to AVMA staff salaries every year.
As part of the three-year fellowship stipend review, the LAC considered stipend and benefit data from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The data rank AVMA's 2010-2011 fellowship stipend as the third largest among the fellowship-sponsoring organizations.
The LAC believes that the stipend policy, combined with the Executive Board's decision to provide up to $6,000 per year in health insurance reimbursement, has successfully impacted the number of fellowship applications and that the current stipend is at the appropriate level to attract a robust pool of new applicants.
District IX board representative Theodore J. Cohn follows the discussion.