FARAD surviving, but future funding uncertain

Published on February 15, 2009
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Eight organizations including the AVMA have pledged more than $16,000 to help maintain a consortium that provides guidance on drug- and contaminant-related withholding times.

The Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank endured layoffs and the prospect of closing before receiving $125,000 in bridge funding late last year from the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. The 2008 Farm Bill had included approval for $2.5 million annually for the databank, but that money was never appropriated.

It was unclear at press time what funding a federal omnibus appropriations bill could provide the university-based organization starting this spring.

FARAD is run through North Carolina State University, the University of California-Davis, and the University of Florida, and its staff members provide withdrawal times for food animals administered pharmaceuticals and pesticides or exposed to contaminants.

The AVMA Executive Board promised $5,000 in seed money for FARAD Nov. 14, provided other stakeholders agreed to contribute.

Since then, FARAD has received pledged funding of $5,000 from the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners, $2,500 from the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, $2,000 from the American Association of Avian Pathologists, $1,000 from the American Sheep Industry Association, $500 from the American Society of Animal Science, $100 from the National Saanen Breeder Association, and $100 from the American Association of Food Hygiene Veterinarians.

At press time, the board knew of at least one other organization that was considering contributing.

Dr. Alistair Webb, one of FARAD's three directors and a professor at the University of Florida-Gainesville, said some organizations' gifts have been impressive given the size of donors' annual budgets.

Dr. Joe Snyder, president of the AASRP, said FARAD is enormously important for association members and their clients because few drugs are approved for use in sheep, fewer for goats, and none for llamas, alpacas, or deer. As a result, most drugs used on those animals have no approved withdrawal times to ensure the safety of those species' meat or milk.

"FARAD is our lifeline in these situations, as we take our commitment to food safety seriously and endeavor to set appropriate and safe withdrawal periods," Dr. Snyder said. "Without FARAD, there is no other recourse for us, other than making an educated guess based on data for other species."

The AASRP has about $60,000 in reserves, and $5,000 is a substantial contribution for the association, Dr. Snyder said.

"We made this decision because this agency is so important to us," Dr. Snyder said. "We hoped, in addition, the fact that such a small organization was willing to give a proportionally large amount might encourage others to be more generous."

Dr. M. Gatz Riddell, executive vice president of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, said FARAD's annual budget is twice that of the AABP, and his organization's contribution is intended to show the need for the databank. He praised FARAD for providing recommended withdrawal times with "unassailable scientific validity."

"We really couldn't allocate a contribution that would even put a drop in the bucket for what they need," Dr. Riddell said. "But the AABP's contribution was to signify the need, the interest, and the desire and hope from bovine practitioners for FARAD to find a permanent source of funding so it can continue to enhance food safety and, in all likelihood, the export market."