By: Valerie Goddard, staff assistant, Governmental Relations Division
Congressman Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) is one of two veterinarians in Congress and is a co-chair of the House Veterinary Medicine Caucus. Elected in 2012, he serves as a member of the House Committees on Agriculture and Foreign Affairs. He has cosponsored the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act, the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act and the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, all legislation which AVMA is actively working to see passed.
Q: Why did you and Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) decide to form a veterinary caucus?
Yoho: Congressman Kurt Schrader and I wanted to provide Members of Congress a source of information and education on issues pertinent to veterinary medicine. We wanted to be the lead organizers within Congress who could help educate our colleagues on issues dealing with pets and animals, animal welfare, food safety, the threat of bioterrorism and our food source. It’s amazing because, after we formed the caucus, members started to come up and ask us questions about horse soring and the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act. When you can talk to people and get the facts out there, they can make good decisions.
Q: What is some legislation you would like to see passed?
Yoho: I think the biggest thing is that we don’t want to have an overreaching or over-burdensome federal government through regulations. We want to specifically deal with animal welfare bills—both companion and food animal. The regulatory burden we see coming out of Washington goes back to one of the reasons I ran for Congress as a business owner.
The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act will change the way people do my type of medicine. I was an ambulatory clinician. We had a clinic, but had to go from farm to farm to treat animals. Had I not been able to use the drugs that we’ve used for 50-75 years because the federal government came in and said, ‘you can’t do this anymore,’ with out a good reason, I couldn’t have done my job. Those are the kind of things that we want to prevent.
Also, a lot of my colleagues didn’t realize that soring is going on and so there’s a good bill—the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act—from Congressman Ed Whitfield of Kentucky to address it. We’re going to do a short seminar on this topic for our Republican Conference, and then Kurt Schrader will do it for his Democratic Conference to help educate people so that we can get overwhelming support.
Q: What is something you hope to see accomplished by the veterinary caucus?
Yoho: Clarity to veterinary issues and education. Probably another big thing that I noticed once I got to Washington was how the Environmental Protection Agency, through pressure from environmental groups, released information on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs), which, to me, is private information. They were giving out addresses and telephone numbers, and that’s something I want to stop. I don’t think things like that should be out in the public domain, easily accessible without a good reason. When you look at the ramifications, there’s a potential for disrupting our food supply if that information, say, fell into the hands of terrorists that wanted to ruin our food supply, either in the meat business or in the dairy business. Those are things we’ve got to watch out for the American farmer.
Q: Has your background in veterinary medicine and animal science been a benefit to your role as a member on the House Committee on Agriculture?
Yoho: Absolutely. We’ve got such a wide array of topics to deal with, that having a broad background or training in basic science, chemistry, engineering, physics and math can come into play. I’ve been trained to diagnose and find a problem on an animal that can’t speak, assess that and then find a workable solution. So many times I see Washington throw an aspirin at a brain tumor when they are not treating the underlying disease. We have to figure out the underlying cause of many of these problems so that we can address the problem, and it goes away.
Q: What would you like AVMA members to know about the caucus?
Yoho: The Veterinary Caucus is a working caucus. It is something we designed, not just so you can go out and get together and socialize, but to get meaningful legislation passed to make veterinary medicine better and safer; so the quality of veterinary medicine remains high, like it is now. We want to limit government interference. We want this to be a stand-alone profession that stands for high quality and we want legislation coming out of this caucus that will protect that. And then we want to be that resource, the go-to source, for things like the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act or the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) legislation, which a lot of people don’t understand.
Sitting on Ag and Foreign Affairs, I deal with trade issues on both of those. And again, this goes back to me wanting a bigger, better, stronger America, economy and middle class. American competitiveness is falling behind in the world. That’s something I want to help regain, and the Veterinary Caucus is a start.