(Schaumburg, IL) Feb.7, 2014— President Barack Obama today signed the long-awaited Farm Bill at the Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
The Farm Bill is only the second time that President Obama has signed legislation in a location other than the White House. This vital legislation has a far-reaching impact on the work veterinarians do every day to protect the health and welfare of both people and animals. Fittingly, he chose a college of veterinary medicine to sign it into law.
In describing the impact of the Farm Bill, President Obama said, "It’s like a Swiss Army Knife—it multitasks. It creates more good jobs and gives more Americans a shot at opportunity."
“The Farm Bill is often referred to as the ‘Food, Farm and Jobs Bill,’ but here at the AVMA, we’d like to add that it’s a bill for animals too, because of its far-reaching impact on the work that veterinarians do every day to protect their health and welfare,” said Dr. Ron DeHaven, AVMA’s executive vice president and chief executive officer.
“We commend the president, as well as the Farm Bill conference committee 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,” said Dr. Clark Fobian, president of the AVMA.
The Farm Bill contains several crucial veterinary research and food safety programs that are vitally import for animal health and welfare, including:
• Authorizing up to $15 million annually for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), a vital, early warning disease surveillance program that gives veterinarians and scientists the ability to test for economically devastating diseases such as mad cow disease, foot-and-mouth disease, avian and swine influenza, and classical swine fever, many of which could affect public health.
• Authorizing up to $10 million annually to establish a new competitive Veterinary Services Grant Program, which 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 that will focus on three areas: food security, One Health and stewardship. 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 post-harvest 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 nutrition 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 significance, including knowledge gaps in animal and plant health, food production and products, food safety, and nutrition and health, to name a few.
• Reauthorizing up to $2.5 million annually for the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD), which gives 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 (AFRI), 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 the safe and effective therapeutic uses of animal drugs for minor species (such as sheep, goats, rabbits, guinea pigs, zoo animals, fish and shellfish, etc.) and minor uses in major species (i.e. dogs, cats, horses, cattle, swine, chickens and turkeys).
In addition to supporting those food research and food safety programs, the newly approved Farm Bill also includes an important 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 cruel events. Targeting those who participate in animal fights is essential to putting organizers out of business.
For more information about the association’s priorities for the Farm Bill, see AVMA’s legislative agenda for the 113th Congress.