By: Governmental Relations Division staff
The AVMA Council on Research (COR) met in Washington, D.C., Sept. 29 through Oct. 1, where they were updated regarding ongoing initiatives to support agricultural and veterinary research and held meetings with Capitol Hill staff.
This is the first time the council held its regular business meeting in the nation’s capital and they had a full agenda, including a discussion on the concept of using veterinary institutional review boards for the oversight of clinical research on animals that are undergoing standard-of-care procedures during their veterinary care. During that discussion, the COR received input from representatives from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care.
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture briefed the council on agricultural research initiatives that have been included in the Farm Bill, the current federal budget situation and an update on current research and development projects to address the technology and resource needs in the field of animal agriculture. In addition, AVMA staff and representatives from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Agricultural Research Service and the National Association for the Advancement of Animal Science briefed the council on current legislation prior to the council’s Hill visits.
After hearing from the different representatives, Council Chair Dr. Harry Dickerson, associate dean for research and graduate affairs at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, urged the representatives to take a message back to the leadership at their respective entities.
“To ensure that the U.S. continues to provide economic and wholesome food, public investment in production animal health needs to be significantly enhanced by increasing the USDA’s competitive research budget,” Dickerson said. “Veterinarians are involved in public, animal and environmental health and play key roles in basic and translational research impacting human health. Thus, it is also critical that the NIH budget be increased to ensure that veterinarians involved in basic and translational research continue to be funded through both competitive research opportunities and training programs.”
Despite being the first day of the government shutdown, council members still met with their respective congressional delegations on the Hill, and often met with the members of Congress themselves, “who were very receptive,” said Dickerson. The council drew attention to key initiatives of importance to veterinary medicine and the AVMA, namely the need to pass the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act (H.R. 1528 / S. 1171), which deals with a veterinarian’s ability to transport controlled substances outside of their principle places of business. Council members also highlighted the important role that veterinarians play in agricultural and biomedical research at the USDA and NIH.
“It became evident to me that some members of Congress and their staffers are very familiar, or receptive to, the issues related to agriculture, research funding and the roles of veterinarians in animal and human health,” Dickerson said. “I believe that this can be ascribed to the excellent work of AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division staff as well as the important role that agriculture plays in the economy of certain states.”
Both elected veterinarians serving in Congress–Drs. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.)–also took time to meet with the council during their visit.