2014 Legislative Priorities

Appropriations Requests for the 113th Congress

United States Department of Agriculture
Section 1433 Formula Funds for Animal Health and Research - $10 million

Animal Health and Disease Research funds have been in existence since 1977 and provide an extremely valuable source of funds for fundamental research on diseases of food producing animals. These funds are the most important funds for most of the Veterinary Science Departments in the U.S. In addition, some of the states with veterinary medical colleges have in the past provided some monies for faculty wishing to conduct food animal related research on local and emerging diseases; however these funds have been essentially eliminated in many of the states. There are no other funds available at this time to provide this much needed support.

Animal Health and Disease Research funds are used for the general maintenance of research infrastructure, which allows more rapid response in the event of disease outbreaks. In addition to the infrastructure these funds support, a significant population of faculty, staff, and students rely on grants from intramural distribution of formula funding. Extramural competitive grants exclude projects that are vital but less popular, less profitable, or associated with lesser known researchers. Overall, the reduction in Animal Health and Disease Research funds undermines the ability of land grant institutions to competitively recruit science teachers and students.

In FY2012, Animal Health and Disease Research funds received an increase of around $1 million for a total of $4 million. This was the first increase the program received in many years. AAVMC would like to see that trend continue.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) - $360 million

As USDA's premier extramural research program, AFRI discoveries sustain and improve many facets of agriculture including human nutrition, rural entrepreneurship, food safety, renewable energy production and environmental stewardship. Providing this support requires that AFRI advance fundamental sciences as well as translational research and development in support of agriculture and coordinate opportunities to build on these discoveries. This will require that AFRI also support education and extension that delivers science-based knowledge to people, allowing them to make informed practical decisions.

AFRI combines basic and applied research, taking research and innovation through the developmental phase and into implementation by utilizing contemporary education and extension programs. AFRI grants support research, education, and extension and integrated initiatives addressing issues of national, regional and multi- state importance to the safety, sustainability, and quality of American agriculture, including farm efficiency and profitability, ranching, renewable energy, forestry (both urban and agroforestry), aquaculture, rural communities and entrepreneurship, human nutrition, food safety, biotechnology, and conventional breeding.

Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) - $4.79 million

The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) was created in 2003 by the National Veterinary Medical Services Act (NVMSA) and is a student loan repayment program for veterinarians who practice in underserved areas. Loan repayment is essential to address shortages of veterinarians practicing food supply medicine and public health. Every state has shortages of food supply veterinarians—1,300 counties have less than one food supply veterinarian per 25,000 farm animals and 500 counties have at least 5,000 farm animals but no veterinarians living there to treat them. In 2009 the average educational debt for veterinary school graduates was $129,976 and 89% of graduates left veterinary medical school with some level of debt.

VMLRP incentivizes specialization in food animal medicine, food safety and public health. Continued funding will permit the USDA to select veterinarians who will agree to practice food supply medicine and veterinary public health in federally designated veterinary shortage situations. VMLRP veterinarians provide a wide array of necessary veterinary services for food animal producer's livestock including beef, dairy cows, poultry, swine, dairy goats, meat goats, sheep, lamb, and farm horses. They provide medical procedure including routine services and emergency services. They perform services required for interstate movement of livestock, perform tuberculosis checks and certified blood sample services for Brucellosis, Bluetongue, and Bovine Viral Diarrhea. Additionally, they serve in academic institutions, consult in health care programs and nutrition, disease surveillance and diagnostics for state and federal program diseases and for foreign animal diseases; and may play a role in a state's veterinary emergency response team and take part in disease control and eradication programs.

While we would certainly like to see this funding increase over time, this request also recognizes current realities and requests level funding.

National Animal Health Laboratory Network – $15 million

The nation needs to protect its agriculture industry, food supply and public health. The National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) infrastructure provides critical roles in rapidly detecting and responding to foreign and domestic disease outbreaks and animal health emergencies that threatens our nation’s food supply and public health. The NAHLN is a coordinated State/Federal diagnostic lab network for rapid recognition, identification, and response to routine and/or emerging disease and emergencies. The state of readiness and surge capacity of state and university diagnostic labs, including analytical toxicology labs, is highly dependent on federal funding to provide this national level of surveillance and response. NAHLN enhances the nation’s early detection of, response to, and recovery from animal health emergencies, including bioterrorist events, newly emerging diseases, and foreign animal disease agents that threaten the Nation’s food supply and public health.

Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD) – $2.5 million

FARAD is a congressionally-mandated risk-management program that is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In view of limited resources, FARAD's focus is limited to food animal species exclusively. The program is maintained by a consortium of universities, including University of California-Davis (UCD), University of Florida (UF), Kansas State University (KSU) and North Carolina State University (NCSU). FARAD's primary mission is to prevent or mitigate illegal or harmful residues of drugs, pesticides, biotoxins and other chemical agents that may contaminate foods of animal origin. The program is of critical importance, but continues to be “zeroed out” of the President’s budget request each year.

National Institutes of Health - $32 billion

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the nation’s federal health research agency, and the premier government- funded research agency worldwide. Nearly ninety percent of NIH funding flows to universities and other research institutions in the form of competitive grants. Like other federal agencies, NIH has been impacted by sequestration, and the health community at large has rallied around this request as reasonable and one which allows NIH to maintain a minimum number of grants and awards.

Health Resources Services Administration Title VII Health Professions Workforce Programs - $520 million

The health professions programs, authorized under Title VII of the Public Health Service Act provide education and training opportunities to a wide variety of health care professionals and students, both preparing them for career opportunities in the health professions and bringing health care services to our rural and underserved communities. By educating and training an array of health professionals in interdisciplinary, community-based settings, the Title VII programs enhance the supply, diversity, and distribution of the workforce and fill the
gaps in the supply of health professionals not met by traditional market forces

Academic veterinary medical Institutions benefit from Title VII public health and preventive medicine programs that help address the growing shortages of public health professionals by providing grants to support training programs and traineeships across the public health and preventive medicine disciplines, and have the longstanding goal of increasing the number of graduates in underserved areas and the number of underrepresented minorities in these professions. Additionally, a public health loan repayment program will provide incentives for students to pursue public health careers.

Other Legislative Positions and Congressional Actions

HR 2796, The Wildlife Veterinarians Employment and Training (VET) Act-- SUPPORT

The Wildlife VET Act would:
  • Expand the workforce of veterinarians specialized in the care and conservation of wild animals and their ecosystems, and develop educational programs focused on wildlife and zoological veterinary medicine.
  • Create new funded positions for wildlife and zoological clinical and research veterinarians.
  • Limit the amount of educational debt for veterinary medicine students while providing incentives to study and practice wildlife and zoological medicine.
  • Help schools and colleges of veterinary medicine develop pilot curricula specializing in health management of wildlife in their natural habitat and in captivity.
  • Expand the number of educational and training programs in wildlife and zoological medicine.
The legislation was introduced by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL). Get Details.

HR 2642/S 954, The House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill Reauthorization -- SUPPORT

Each of these versions contains language that replicates the Veterinary Services Investment Act, which was introduced in the 112th Congress. This language would amend the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 to direct the Secretary of Agriculture (USDA) to carry out a matching grant program with qualified entities to develop, implement, and sustain veterinary services in the states.

Grants awarded under VSIA would allow recipients to:
  • establish or expand veterinary practices or establish mobile veterinary facilities;
  • recruit veterinarians, technicians, and students;
  • attend training programs in food safety or food animal medicine;
  • establish or expand accredited education, internship, residency, and fellowship programs;
  • assess veterinarian shortage situations; and
  • support continuing education and extension, including tele-veterinary medicine and other distance-based education.
Funds could not be used for the following:
  • Construction of a new building/facility
  • Acquisition of a building/facility
  • Expansion/remodeling/alteration of existing building/facility
  • Site grading and improvement
  • Architect fees
The grant program is authorized at $10 million initially, and qualified recipients include: an accredited college or school of veterinary medicine; a university research or veterinary medical foundation; an accredited department of veterinary science or department of comparative medicine; a State agricultural experiment station; State VMAs, national, allied, or regional veterinary organization or specialty board recognized by AVMA; a State, local, or tribal government agency; an entity located in the U.S. that operates a veterinary clinic providing veterinary service in a rural area and in response to a veterinarian shortage situation.

HR 1125/S 553, Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act -- SUPPORT

Each of these bills would amend the Internal Revenue Code to make VMLRP awards exempt from gross income and employment taxes. Awards are currently taxed at 39% although those taxes are paid by USDA directly to the Treasury on behalf of the award recipient. Tax exemption for VMLRP awards would result in one additional veterinarian for every three based on current appropriations.

Veterinarians selected for VMLRP provide a wide array of necessary veterinary services for farmers' and ranchers' livestock including beef and dairy cows, poultry, swine, goats, sheep, and farm horses. Exempting veterinary medicine loan repayment and forgiveness program awards from federal income taxation will lead to more communities having needed veterinary services sooner than they may otherwise and will help to ensure that our nation's livestock are healthy, that our food supply is safe and secure, and our public health is protected. Get Details.

HR 1528/S 1171, the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act--SUPPORT

We are seeking modification to the Controlled Substances Act and Drug Enforcement Administration policy that currently prohibits veterinarians from transporting controlled substances to administer and treat patients outside of the registered location.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) interpretation of provisions within the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and resulting federal regulations make it illegal for registrants to transport controlled substances for use outside of a registered location. The practice of veterinary medicine is unique in that veterinarians treat multiple species of animals in different practice settings. Veterinarians’ ability to practice medicine often requires that they be able to provide mobile or ambulatory services. This is particularly important in rural areas and for the care of large animals because it is often not feasible, practical or possible for owners to bring livestock (i.e., cows, pigs, horses, sheep, and goats) to a bricks-and-mortar clinic or hospital. Many companion animal veterinarians provide “house call” services for their patients or operate mobile clinics that offer a variety of veterinary services for communities. Controlled substances are also used by veterinarians in research and disease control activities that may be conducted away from the veterinarian’s principal place of business. And, in the discharge of their daily duties, veterinarians may use controlled substances to remove or translocate dangerous wildlife (e.g. bears, cougars) or rescue trapped wildlife (e.g. deer trapped in a fence).

The DEA has informed organized veterinary medicine that transporting controlled substances is illegal per the CSA and thus would require a statutory change to allow veterinarians to legally provide complete veterinary care. It is imperative veterinarians be able to legally transport controlled substances to the location of the animal patient, not only for animal health and welfare, but for public safety. This legislation will:
  • Require the DEA to promulgate regulations allowing veterinarians to transport controlled substances.
  • Facilitate quality patient care by permitting veterinarians to transport needed medications to veterinary patients.
  • Prevent legal action against veterinarians who are appropriately handling controlled substances in the course of providing complete veterinary care.
  • Help assure the integrity of the drug dispensing and administration process by authorizing veterinarians to maintain control of these critical medications.

Get Details

NIH report language contained in FY 2014 Labor HHS Appropriations legislation, as follows:

Doctors of Veterinary Medicine and loan repayment programs -- The Committee recognizes the important role that doctors of veterinary medicine (DVMs) play in the biomedical research enterprise because of their background and training in disease processes across all animals, including cross species virus transmission, and animal models. Like other medical professionals, a large debt load upon graduation influences their choice to pursue careers in biomedical research. The Committee was gratified to see the eligibility for the loan repayment programs was expanded to include DVMs and would like NIH to report to the Committee if this change increased DVM participation in these programs. Given the vital part DMVs play in clinical research, NIH is encouraged to continue to make this eligibility change more widely known to potential applicants, ICs and reviewers.

Executive Branch Activities

Implementation of USDA’s Centers of Excellence

Although authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress has not yet provided an appropriation for this program as of FY 2013. AAVMC will work with USDA to formally recognize and/or certify current and future centers of excellence. AAVMC identifies the follow core attributes and activities for a center of excellence:
  1. Ensure coordination and cost-effectiveness by reducing duplicative efforts regarding research, teaching and extension.
  2. Leverage available resources by utilizing public/private partnerships among industry, higher education, and the Federal Government.
  3. Implement teaching initiatives to increase awareness and effectively disseminate solutions to target audiences
  4. Increase economic returns to rural communities by identifying, attracting, and directing funds to high-priority agricultural issues
  5. Improve teaching capacity and infrastructure
Educate federal agency leadership on the full spectrum of academic veterinary medicine

While AAVMC works hard to ensure that its audience on Capitol Hill and federal agencies understand veterinary medicine means more than care and treatment for animals, highlighting the full spectrum of academic veterinary medicine for federal agency officials will be a priority. The main impediment to expanding AAVMC’s reach within federal agencies is a lack of understanding by administration officials of academic veterinary medicine’s role in meeting their agency’s mission. Political and career staff must understand the role veterinarians play in bridging the gap in understanding and addressing the challenges of protecting animal, human, and ecosystem health. A deeper understanding of the widespread implications of veterinary medicine from the top down will in itself create more opportunities for AAVMC and its members to collaborate with federal health agencies.

To this end, AAVMC members and representatives will continue to champion the “One Health Initiative” to expand interdisciplinary collaborations in all aspects of health care for humans, animals and the environment during interactions with federal representatives, as an example of the role of veterinary medicine. The One Health concept is continuing to gain acknowledgement and approval within several components of the federal government.

AAVMC staff will also continue to work with consultants from CRD Associates to establish stronger, ongoing relationships with career staff within several federal agencies, initially concentrating on NIH but eventually moving to other agencies as well.

Expand the pool of biomedical postdoctoral fellowships and ensure that veterinary biomedical postdoctoral researchers have the same opportunities for loan repayment afforded to other health professionals at NIH

Two of NIH’s stated goals are as follows: (1) to foster fundamental creative discoveries, innovative research strategies, and their applications as a basis for ultimately protecting and improving health; and (2) to develop, maintain, and renew scientific human and physical resources that will ensure the Nation's capability to prevent disease. Veterinary biomedical researchers can play an integral role in fulfilling NIH’s goals. Yet the majority of graduates seek careers in private practice. AAVMC will work with NIH to expand the shrinking pool of postdoctoral training opportunities, as they are vital to meeting NIH’s goals and can help incentivize graduates to consider the additional education required of biomedical researchers.

In this economic climate, expanding federal opportunities for biomedical research positions may be difficult, but AAVMC will work to ensure that veterinary graduates have the same opportunities to compete for the existing positions afforded other health professionals. On average, veterinary medical students graduate with
$152,000 in debt, facing the same obstacles allopathic and osteopathic physicians face in terms of debt load. In order to meet the potential of “One Health,” protect public health, and fulfill NIH’s goals, graduates of veterinary medical colleges should receive the same support afforded other biomedical researchers to conduct postdoctoral fellowships. A little over a year ago, loan repayment programs were expanded for graduates of veterinary medical school wishing to pursue biomedical research. To date, however, NIH has not been able to provide data as to whether veterinary graduates have taken advantage of this program, or to what degree.

For this reason, AAVMC has been working to include report language in the FY 2014 Labor HHS Appropriations bills that would direct NIH to gather and report this information, as well as to continue to publicize the program to potential applicants throughout all of the institutes and centers. This action item will help AAVMC meet its strategic goal of leading efforts to increase the amount of veterinary research conducted and the number of graduates entering research careers.

Explore potential new opportunities in the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)

The creation of NCATS presents new opportunities for the Association and its members. To date, minimal attention has been given to animal models and veterinary medicine in the development of the new center. However, with a stated aim of catalyzing the generation of innovative methods and technologies to enhance the development, testing, and implementation of diagnostics and therapeutics across a wide range of human diseases and conditions, veterinarians engaged in biomedical research have a role to play and must be involved early in the Center’s development and activities. AAVMC has already met with the new NCATS leadership, and will continue working to ensure that veterinary medicine is included as the new center moves forward.

Increase the opportunities for AAVMC members to participate in HRSA’s diversity training programs

AAVMC member institutions are eligible to participate in the Title VII diversity programs, including the Centers of Excellence (COE) program, the Health Careers Opportunity Program (HCOP), the Minority Faculty Fellowship Program and the Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students Program. These programs are critical to building workforce capacity, but at this time, AAVMC member institutions participate in these programs on a limited basis. AAVMC must first educate HRSA leadership on the role the veterinary workforce plays in public health and the impact veterinarians have on preventing disease outbreaks and overall human health. Moving forward, AAVMC will provide input to HRSA as guidance documents are developed and assistance to AAVMC member institutions in crafting high quality applications.

Explore opportunities to participate in the HRSA Public Health and Preventive Medicine programs

Given the impact veterinary medicine has on public health and prevention, members should be connected to these programs. Both the Public Health Traineeships and Public Health Training Centers fund schools of public health and other programs that provide training in public health. If there are barriers that prohibit AAVMC member participation, they should be addressed with HRSA leadership.

Monday, September 19, 2016

AAVMC Introduces Web-based Educational Cost Comparison Tool

read more Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Saskatchewan’s Freeman Assumes Leadership of AAVMC

read more Friday, June 24, 2016

New Leadership for AAVMC Leadership Academy

read more Monday, May 23, 2016

Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences Wins 2016 AAVMC Excellence in Communications Award

read more Journal of Veterinary Medical Education