Advocating for rural veterinary care

rural veterinary practictioners


guiding public policy

In this article:
  • Learn about the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) and other strategies to increase veterinary care in rural areas.
  • Take action on legislation to protect and expand these programs.
  • Find out how to apply for the VMLRP and the Veterinary Services Grant Program (VSGP).

The AVMA advocates actively for policy solutions that will improve access to veterinary care in America's rural communities. Timely veterinary care is key to detecting and preventing highly contagious animal diseases, like foot-and-mouth disease and avian influenza. It’s also critical to maintaining a healthy, safe food supply.

For many years, some rural communities have suffered from inadequate access to the veterinarians needed to care for livestock. The AVMA is a leading supporter of federal legislation and policies that address these access gaps by providing student loan support, federal grants, and other assistance to help veterinarians serve rural communities.

Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP)

The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) helps place food animal and public health veterinarians in high-need rural areas. It does this by providing strategic loan repayment help in exchange for veterinary service in these areas. The AVMA was instrumental in implementing this program, which has been tremendously successful in bringing veterinarians into federally designated veterinary shortage areas.

Now, the AVMA is working to maximize the reach of this important program by making VMLRP awards non-taxable. This would expand the number of participants who could be funded without adding to the program’s budget footprint. Applications for the VMLRP program routinely exceed available funding, which leaves many veterinary shortage areas unfilled. The proposed Rural Veterinary Workforce Act would help alleviate the problem.

Learn more about the program’s importance and how Congress can increase its effectiveness.

Interested in applying?

Get application information and timelines

Veterinarian vaccinating a goat

Take action

The AVMA is working to maximize the reach of the VMLRP program and close gaps in rural access to veterinary care. Share your VMLRP story to help educate lawmakers and the public about the program's value.

Share your story

Regional shortages of livestock and public health veterinarians are leaving farm animals at risk.

Veterinary Services Grant Program (VSGP)

Like the VMLRP, the Veterinary Services Grant Program targets specific rural areas that lack adequate veterinary services for food animal care and public health. Through grants to private practices, nonprofits, and veterinary schools, the VSGP proactively addresses veterinary workforce gaps. For instance, the program has provided grants for a private food animal practice to buy mobile equipment to reach a broader geographic area, funded training programs that help recruit food animal veterinarians to rural areas, and supported critical food animal residencies. The AVMA is working with Congress to support generous funding to this program.

Learn more about the program, including how to apply for grants

Get involved

AVMA's advocacy work is powered by the combined strength of our diverse membership. From online letter-writing to in-person visits with lawmakers, volunteer advocates help drive legislative successes that protect, promote, and advance the veterinary profession. You can start with these simple actions:

Discover more ways to increase your impact at