AVMA Update on the Senate Passage of the 2012 Farm Bill

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) congratulates Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS) for their leadership in crafting the 2012 Farm Bill, “The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012” (S. 3240) and successfully shepherding it through the U.S. Senate.  The bill passed with bipartisan support on June 21, 2012 by a vote of 64-35.

The 2012 Farm Bill includes two of the Association’s highest legislative priorities:

  •  A provision authorizing a new competitive Veterinary Services Grant Program to address needs in rural agricultural areas. The underlying legislation for this provision was the Veterinary Services Investment Act championed by Chairwoman Stabenow.  The new competitive grant program would bolster the veterinary workforce and food protection needs and to help support practices of veterinarians who are participating in or have successfully completed the federal Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) or other similar federal or state programs.
  • A provision that is identical to the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act which amends the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to prohibit any person from knowingly attending an animal fighting venture or causing a minor to attend such a venture.  This provision addresses a practice that is still far too common in our society that has severe consequences for the animals involved, including serious injury and/or death.  While most states have recently adopted stricter laws addressing animal fighting, enforcement is a challenge and combined federal and state efforts are most effective. Targeting not only those participating, but those frequenting these events is necessary to put their organizers out of business.

Other highlights from S. 3240 include reauthorization from 2012 through 2017 of several AVMA’s priority programs including the:

  • Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) which pays up to $25,000 per year towards qualified educational loans for veterinarians who sign contracts to provide food animal or public health services in designated areas.
  • Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD) which is used by veterinarians, livestock producers, and state and federal regulatory and extension specialists to ensure that drug, environmental, and pesticide contaminants do not end up in meat, milk, and eggs.  FARAD is administered through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and operates out of North Carolina State University, the University of Florida-Gainesville, and the University of California-Davis. Kansas State University will be joining the program in the fall 2012.
  • Agriculture and Food Research Institute (AFRI) competitive research grants administered through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. AFRI combines basic and applied research, taking research and innovation through the developmental phase and into implementation by utilizing contemporary education and extension programs.  AFRI supports research, education, extension and integrated initiatives addressing issues of national, regional and multi-state importance to the safety, sustainability, and quality of American agriculture, including farm efficiency and profitability, ranching, renewable energy, forestry, aquaculture, rural communities and entrepreneurship, human nutrition, food safety, biotechnology, and conventional breeding; and the
  • Animal Health and Disease Research/1433 Formula Funds which provide a valuable source of funds for fundamental research on diseases of food producing animals.

In addition, S. 3240 includes the initial authorization for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research(FFAR):

  • The AVMA has prioritized increasing resources for food and agriculture research, specifically with an eye on increasing opportunities for animal health, livestock production, and animal products research.  Aside from our efforts to reauthorized AFRI as noted above, we were involved in success efforts to include a provision to establish FFAR in the Senate farm bill.  FFAR has the potential to generate significant outside funding through the development of public-private partnerships.  FFAR would supplement the research efforts of USDA by accepting tax-deductible donations to fund agricultural research. Through the FFAR, those donations would be matched by $100 million in Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funds, which would then be used to support grants for collaborative public/private partnerships with scientists and entities including USDA, academia, non-profits, and the private sector.

The AVMA is working with stakeholders to include two additional provisions in the House version of the farm bill:

  •  An amendment to officially authorize the Minor Use Animal Drug Program (MUADP).  The MUADP develops data necessary for the safe and effective use of drugs veterinarians and minor species produces currently have access to for therapeutic use in minor species.  It supports securing drug approvals for minor species that are already in use in major species.  With the data developed by the MUADP minor species producers can use current animal drugs prudently avoiding contamination of their products with illegal drug residues and limiting the potential for drug resistance while treating sick animals with appropriate doses.  MUADP does not add new drugs to the number currently in use for diseases in food animals and not all of the products that MUADP gets approved for minor species are antibiotics; and
  • An amendment to increase the authorized funding for the Biosecurity Planning and Response from $20,000,000 to $30,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2013-2017. This authorized funding would support the Food and Agriculture Defense Initiative (FADI).  FADI supports the animal and animal health laboratory networks (Extension Disaster Education Network, the National Plant Diagnostic Network, and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network).  These critical networks are the backbone of the U.S. emergency response and recovery program for transboundary diseases.

The next step in the process is for the House Agriculture Committee to take up its version of the farm bill, which it is tentatively scheduled to do on July 11.  House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) are expected to quickly move their bill through the process.  AVMA urges Congress to complete its work so that President Obama can sign a new bill into law before the current bill expires at the end of September.

For more information contact Gina Luke, Assistant Director Governmental Relations Division, 202-289-3204, gluke@AVMA.org.


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