Agricultural recommendations considered

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In its 2005 report "Animal Health at the Crossroads: Preventing, Detecting, and Diagnosing Animal Diseases," the National Research Council made 11 recommendations to strengthen the nation's animal health framework. This March, the AVMA Executive Board approved the Association's support for the concepts of the recommendations, as recommended by the AVMA Animal Agriculture Liaison Committee.

Animal health research is the focus of two of the NRC recommendations. Recommendation 4 calls for federal agencies to establish a method to jointly fund new research programs, ensure that veterinary and medical scientists can work as collaborators, and enhance research on animal and zoonotic diseases. Recommendation 5 addresses strengthening the animal health and zoonotic disease research infrastructure.

Two other NRC recommendations relate to education and training, and both await input from the AVMA Council on Education. Recommendation 9 is aimed at recruiting and preparing additional veterinary graduates for careers in public health, food systems, biomedical research, diagnostic laboratory investigation, pathology, epidemiology, ecosystem health, and food animal practice. It looks to industry, producers, the AVMA, government agencies, and veterinary schools/colleges to build this veterinary capacity. Activities of the Food Supply Veterinary Medicine Coalition are directly related to this recommendation. Tied in with this recommendation is Veterinary Workforce Expansion Act legislation and funding needed for the National Veterinary Medical Service Act.

In recommendation 10, the NRC calls for the Department of Agriculture, state animal health agencies, the AVMA, and colleges/schools of veterinary medicine and animal science departments to develop a national animal health education plan for individuals from all sectors involved in prevention and early detection of disease through their day-to-day oversight of animals.

As it continues to examine the NRC's Crossroads report, the Animal Agriculture Liaison Committee may come forward with additional recommendations for the AVMA.

To strengthen national preparedness against agroterrorism, as detailed in the Crossroads report, the AVMA is requesting that the Department of Homeland Security, along with the Department of Agriculture, provide full funding for development of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. These appropriations include $85 million for infrastructure. The AVMA also requests that the USDA provide $30 million yearly for maintenance of the laboratories. This network of federal and state resources is intended to enable a rapid response to animal health emergencies. The AALC recommended the action.

The board approved another AALC recommendation urging the Department of Homeland Security to dramatically increase agricultural inspections at points of entry to the United States. This is necessary to protect the critical infrastructure of food and agriculture from terrorist attack or unintentional introduction of exotic or emerging diseases or pests.

The board amended and approved another AALC recommendation urging the departments of Homeland Security and Interior and other appropriate agencies to acknowledge the lead role of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in matters of farm animal health. It also urges them to coordinate more effectively with APHIS in developing and enhancing partnerships and resources among government and the private sector.

As recommended by the Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine, the board approved AVMA support for the concept that the federal government not restrict potential locations for a proposed National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility—which would replace the Plum Island Animal Disease Center—to Plum Island, N.Y. The council is advancing the standpoint that modern, well-designed and -operated facilities do not present an unacceptable risk to animal or human health, and would be more economical to build, maintain, and operate on the mainland.