In a letter sent recently to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, the AVMA explained the importance of the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank and the need for increased and sustained funding for the program. The Executive Board authorized the letter.
The AVMA also emphasized the necessity of quickly filling the USDA undersecretary for food safety position to ensure that the funding issue is addressed.
The FARAD program has evolved into a cost-effective, federal and multi-university extension program staffed by trained veterinary pharmacologists and toxicologists. They assist veterinarians, extension agents, and regulatory personnel with preventing meat and dairy products from being contaminated with unsafe residues of animal drugs and pesticides.
Merit-review grants with matching support from the sponsoring universities have been the source of financial support for FARAD. The program has received approximately $200,000 annually since 1982, except in 1999, when funding was increased to $500,000 for that year only.
But in January 2000, FARAD was notified that it would be placed in a competitive grant program, which required peer review. The review panel ruled that the competitive grant was an inappropriate method of funding a national food safety program. Later that year, Congress passed a line item measure restoring partial funding for FARAD, but critical personnel had left by then.
The AVMA recommended to Veneman that a federal agency oversee FARAD, preferably the USDA-FSIS, and that the databank be funded at the $1 million level allowed for in the Agriculture Research, Extension and Education Reform Act of 1998.