AVMA applauds gains in Farm Bill

$1 trillion legislation authorizes several veterinary research and food safety programs
Published on March 19, 2014
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President Barack Obama chose the Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine as the venue to sign the long-awaited Farm Bill Feb. 7. The occasion marks only the second time Obama has signed legislation in a location other than the White House.

The bill represents nearly $1 trillion in spending over the next decade. Describing its impact, Obama likened the Farm Bill to a Swiss army knife. “It multitasks,” the president said. “It creates more good jobs and gives more Americans a shot at opportunity.”

President Barack Obama, surrounded by members of Congress, signs the Farm Bill Feb. 7 at the Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine. (Photo by Associated Press)

AVMA President Clark K. Fobian commended the president and House and Senate leadership “for their diligence in passing a bill that helps ensure that Americans have access to the safest and highest-quality food supply in the world.”

The Farm Bill authorizes a number of veterinary research and food safety programs that the AVMA calls vitally important for animal health and welfare, including the following:

  • Authorizing up to $15 million annually for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, an early-warning disease surveillance program that gives veterinarians and scientists the ability to test for economically devastating diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, foot-and-mouth disease, avian and swine influenza, and classical swine fever.
  • Authorizing up to $10 million annually to establish a new competitive Veterinary Services Grant Program that will complement the existing Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program. The new grant program is aimed at relieving veterinary shortage situations and supporting private veterinary practices that are engaged in public health activities in rural and underserved areas of the country.
  • Expanding the Animal Health and Disease Research/1433 Formula Funds, which have traditionally focused on animal health and disease research and will now include a competitive grants program focusing on food security and one health. The program will look at improving food security in a variety of ways, including enhancing the efficiency of feed and reproduction in livestock, researching biological phenomena related to animal production, and improving pre- and postharvest food safety systems. In the area of one health, the program will explore topics such as vaccine development, the control of zoonotic diseases, and the quality and nutritional value of food products.
  • Establishing a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, which would provide $200 million in funding for new research projects aimed at addressing key problems of national and international importance, including knowledge gaps in animal and plant health, food production and products, food safety, and nutrition and health.
  • Reauthorizing up to $2.5 million annually for the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank, which offers scientists the tools they need to provide vital information to veterinarians and livestock producers to ensure that milk, meat, and eggs are free of drug and chemical residues before entering the food supply.
  • Reauthorizing up to $700 million annually for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which provides grants for research, education, and extension work into sustaining all components of U.S. agriculture. The program has added new priority areas for research, including the study and development of surveillance methods; vaccines, vaccination delivery systems, and diagnostics for pests and diseases, including epizootic diseases in domestic livestock; zoonotic diseases in domestic livestock or wildlife reservoirs that present potential public health concerns; the identification of animal drug needs; and the generation and dissemination of data for safe and effective therapeutic uses of animal drugs for minor species such as sheep, goats, and rabbits and for minor uses in major species.

Additionally, the Farm Bill includes a provision that cracks down on the abusive practice of animal fighting by making it a federal crime to attend or cause a minor under the age of 16 to attend these events.

For more information about the AVMA’s priorities within the Farm Bill, click here.