By: Valerie Goddard, staff assistant, Governmental Relations Division
Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) is serving his first term in Congress, where he is a member of the House committees on agriculture, and transportation and infrastructure, and is the only freshman House member to be selected to serve on the recently named Farm Bill Conference Committee. Rep. Davis has cosponsored the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act and the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act.
Q: What motivated you to join the veterinary caucus?
Davis: Congressman Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), one of the co-chairs, is actually one of my fellow freshman Republicans and a friend of mine. Aside from that, most of all, it’s because I have a lot of experience with my local vet and my pets. Remember, Illinois has over 76,000 farms just within my congressional district, and agriculture is part of our economy. Illinois ranks third in pig and hog production, and I have over 500 veterinarians in my district alone who play a key role in making sure that Illinois remains a leader. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has one of the most prestigious vet schools in the nation.
Q: What concerns do you hear from your constituents or colleagues about issues that deal with food safety, animal science or veterinary medicine? Are there any major issues within these categories that the state of Illinois is currently facing?
Davis: A lot of the discussion is centered on those who are actually in the field, but I do hear a lot when it comes to overregulation. Whether it’s the Environmental Protection Agency trying to regulate milk spills like they are oil spills or the Department of Labor trying to prevent children from working on their family farms – these are things that I’m trying to address in Washington. Apart from these regulations being ridiculous, overregulation also stifles our economy. I put some rules and regulatory relief in the farm bill, and I’m happy to be one of the farm bill conferees.
More specifically to veterinarians, another issue I would say I am concerned about is that the Drug Enforcement Administration has previously told veterinarians that it is illegal to transport and use controlled substances to treat animals beyond the physical locations where they’re registered. It’s a lot easier for the vet to go to the large livestock farm than it is for the livestock to go to the vet’s office. That’s why I cosponsored H.R. 1528, the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, which will allow registered vets to legally transport these controlled substances to the farms and make sure that they address their customers’ needs a little more effectively.
Animal welfare, especially in a district like mine, is a hot topic. It’s important that vets come to recognize and also report any animal abuse while they’re working to educate my constituents and their clients about proper animal care.
Q: Do you think there is crossover between your work on the House committees on agriculture, and transportation and infrastructure and your work in the veterinary caucus?
Davis: Absolutely. The Ag Committee has an obvious relationship with its jurisdiction over the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Transportation Committee plays a much more indirect and understated role because many of the products that we rely upon involve exporting, especially when it comes to large animals that actually have to go down the Mississippi River out into the open ocean. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act is a bill that I cosponsored that passed on October 23 in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion, and I’m hoping that it is going to be signed into law. We also have to look at our highway reauthorization and other transportation issues to ensure that the livestock industry isn’t impacted by the lack of ability to get our products to the market.
Q: What is some legislation you would like to see passed this Congress and what problems would it address?
Davis: It is crucial right now that we set our long-term Ag policy in this country. Right now, that means getting a farm bill passed. I think it takes it a step further than just setting long-term ag policy; it also will give the hard-working tax payers in this country a model of bipartisanship that seems not to exist anymore in Washington.
Q: Can you tell me a little about your current pet or a favorite pet?
Davis: I had a 16-year-old Boston terrier named Bruiser that, unfortunately, we had to put down in January 2012. He was a great dog. Actually, a veterinary medical miracle; I think he had nine mast cell tumors removed during his lifetime. But he was a great dog and just got old and sick. I have two pets now that make me laugh and keep me happy every day when I’m at home. They’re both Yorkies; one is a Yorkie named Juliet and she rules the roost and she likes to eat, so we’re limiting that. I have a new puppy that’s three months old now and he’s a Biewer Yorkie. His name is Ryder, and he’s actually insane.