By: Gina Luke, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division
On June 10, the U.S. Senate passed its version of the 2013 Farm Bill by a vote of 66-27, including reauthorizations for many of the programs that AVMA has prioritized for the profession. By passing the Senate Farm Bill—otherwise known as the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013 (S. 954)—with a supermajority, Democratic leadership in the Senate believes that this will put their bill at an advantage when they conference with the U.S. House’s version of the bill later this summer.
AVMA saw many of its priorities included in the Senate Farm Bill (see chart), including:
- Authorization of $10 million annually for a new competitive veterinary services grant program (formerly referred to as the “Veterinary Services Investment Act”). The program, which AVMA has sought since 2008, would increase access to veterinary care in underserved rural areas of the country. Veterinary clinics, state veterinary medical associations, accredited veterinary schools, along with other eligible entities will compete for grants that will facilitate private practices in livestock medicine as well as public health practices.
- Authorization of $15 million annually for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), which monitors animal-borne illnesses that pose significant threats to animal and public health. Securing the authorization for funding specifically dedicated for the NAHLN has been AVMA’s long-term goal. A more stable and reliable funding stream to support the NAHLN is critical to its ongoing effectiveness.
- Reauthorization of $20 million annually for the Food and Agriculture Defense Initiative (FADI), which supports a unified network of public agricultural institutions that will help to identify and respond to high risk biological pathogens in the food and agricultural system. FADI provides baseline funding for the NAHLN and supports the Extension Disaster Education Network and the Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education.
- Reauthorization of $2,500,000 annually for the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD).
- Authorization of $200 million in mandatory funding for a Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, which is designed to encourage greater private investment in research. The Foundation will solicit new funding sources to help foster innovation in the food and agriculture industry. This program would not be subject to the annual appropriations process.
- Authorization of $50 million annually for the Food Animal Agriculture Integrated Research Initiative, which conducts research on promoting food security, the interrelationship between animal and human health, and environmental stewardship.
- Reauthorization of $25 million annually for the Animal Health and Disease Research program, which supports livestock and poultry disease research at accredited schools of veterinary medicine and state agriculture experiment stations.
- Reauthorization of $10 million for Regional Centers of Excellence, which would help reduce the cost of specialized education for individual colleges of veterinary medicine and take advantage of the economies of scale available in areas where a concentration of livestock and specialized expertise exists.
- Authorizes the new Cervidae Initiative at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which is designed to support collaborative research on parasites and diseases of farmed deer and elk, such as epizootic hemorrhagic disease and chronic wasting disease.
S. 954 also included a prohibition on attending animal fights or causing a minor to attend animal fights, an issue that AVMA has been advocating on for some time. The provision, however, is not included in the House’s version of the Farm Bill—the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (H.R. 1947).
The Senate did not include a provision for the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments, championed by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), which would stipulate hen housing and treatment standards. At present, H.R. 1947 excludes any such provision, but amendments could be offered for debate when the bill goes before the full U.S. House of Representatives.
Since more than 200 amendments were filed on the Senate’s Farm Bill, the chamber felt it necessary to place a time limit on consideration of the bill—known as a “cloture vote”—to end the bill’s debate. As a result of this action, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran’s (R-Kansas) amendment on the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act was ruled not germane to the bill and dropped (see related article). That bill will continue to be worked on by the AVMA outside of the Farm Bill process.
The U.S. House is expected to take up their version of the Farm Bill by mid-June. Once they pass their version, then the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House can name members to a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two versions.
For more information on the Senate Farm Bill, see the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry’s press release.