By: Gina Luke, assistant director, AVMA Governmental Relations Division
In one of its final acts as a lawmaking body, the 113th Congress came together the week of Dec. 8 to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill (H.R. 83), funding most governmental agencies through the end of the 2015 fiscal year. The AVMA was pleased to see funding for key programs and agencies of great importance to veterinary medicine fare well in the legislation, which has now been signed by the president.
The fiscal 2015 “cromnibus”—as Washington insiders called the bill due to it being a combination of an omnibus spending bill and a continuing resolution—funded 11 of 12 appropriations bills through September 2015. The only department that did not receive full-year funding in the bill was the Department of Homeland Security, which Congress has decided to fund at fiscal 2014 levels through the end of February due to ongoing political debate over President Obama’s executive order on immigration.
Most of AVMA’s high-priority veterinary and agriculture programs fall under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s section of the spending bill. H.R. 83 included $147.6 billion in total funding—$1.9 billion more than fiscal 2014—for the USDA, of which $30.2 billion is allocated for general agriculture programs and $100 billion for domestic food assistance programs, most of which are mandatory.
The AVMA worked diligently to achieve the following funding levels for its high-priority veterinary and agriculture programs:
|Fiscal 2014 Final||Fiscal 2015 Final|
|National Institute of Food and Agriculture||1.27 billion||$1.29 billion|
|Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program||$4.7 million||$5 million|
|Animal Health and Disease Research||$4 million||$4 million|
|Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank||$1.25 million||$1.25 million|
|Food and Agriculture Defense Initiative||$6.68 million||$6.7 million|
|Agriculture and Food Research Institute||$316.4 million||$325 million|
|Agricultural Research Service||$1.12 billion||$1.17 billion|
|Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service||$824.8 million||$874.5 million|
|Animal Health||$285 million||$288 million|
|National Animal Health Laboratory Network||–||$6.7 million|
|National Veterinary Stockpile||$4.2 million||$2.75 million|
|Veterinary Biologics||$16.4 million||$16.4 million|
|Veterinary Diagnostics||$31.5 million||$31.5 million|
|Zoonotic Disease Management||$9.5 million||$9.5 million|
|Animal Welfare Division||$28.7 million||$28.7 million|
|Horse Protection Act||$500,000||$697,000|
|Food Safety and Inspection Service||$1 billion||$1 billion|
|Food and Drug Administration||$4.37 billion||$4.49 billion|
|Animal Drugs and Feeds||$141.5 million||$147.5 million|
|National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System||–||$3 million|
|National Institutes of Health||$29.9 billion||$30.8 billion|
Inside look at fiscal 2015 funding levels for key agencies
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which supports research, extension and higher education in partnership with American universities, will be funded at $1.3 billion—$12 million more than in fiscal 2014. The AVMA was pleased to see a slight increase within NIFA’s budget for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, the Food and Agriculture Defense Initiative and the Agriculture and Food Research Institute. Both the Animal Health and Disease Research and the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank received the same funding as in fiscal 2014.
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS), which conducts basic and applied research to develop and transfer solutions to agricultural problems of national priority in a number of fields, including animal health, will be funded at $1.1 billion—$10 million more than in fiscal 2014. The bill rejected the president’s request to terminate and redirect research programs and close certain research stations. Extramural research will continue to be funded at fiscal 2014 levels.
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which conducts inspections and quarantine activities to protect animals and plants from diseases and pests, will be funded at $874 million—$49.5 million more than its fiscal 2014 spending level. Within that total, appropriators recommended $288 million for animal health, $305 million for plant health and $109 million for wildlife services. The bill includes $6.7 million in funding for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.
APHIS’ budget also included $29 million to carry out key animal welfare activities. As in prior years, the spending bill prohibits funds from being used to pay for any horse inspection activities–a necessary requirement for the transport and/or slaughter of horses in the United States. Also, APHIS has been instructed to provide more written communication to judges who are conducting horse inspections at walking horse shows regarding the “scar rule,” which is when horses show evidence of previously being sored. APHIS is also responsible for reporting to Congress on changes to federal law that could resolve trade issues with the mandatory country-of-origin (COOL) labeling for domestic and imported meat and chicken products.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which works to ensure that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry and egg products is safe, wholesome and correctly labeled and packaged, will be funded at $1 billion. The $5.8 million increase over last fiscal year’s spending level will help ensure the safety and productivity of the country’s $186 billion meat and poultry industry. The funding provided will also help the agency maintain its more than 7,800 frontline inspection personnel at more than 6,400 facilities across the country.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates food, cosmetics, human and animal drugs, and medical devices, will be funded at $4.5 billion for its operations and activities in fiscal 2015. This includes both $2.6 billion in direct appropriations and monies collected through user fees. The Animal Drugs and Feeds budget line will receive $147.5 million–a $6 million increase. Three million dollars is allocated to the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), which serves as the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine’s post-approval safety monitoring system for food animal antibiotics. The FDA commissioner has also been directed through the spending bill to finalize its Veterinary Feed Directive rule prior to April 1, 2015.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which conducts important medical research, will be funded at $30.1 billion–$150 million more than in fiscal 2014. In addition to this total, the bill provided NIH with $238 million in funding to help the country fight the global Ebola virus epidemic.