Good news for veterinarians in early draft of Farm Bill

In April, the U.S. House Agriculture Committee took the first step in crafting the 2018 Farm Bill by introducing its draft – the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2) – and sending it for consideration by the full House of Representatives. The AVMA is very pleased to see priority animal health programs included in this legislation, which covers a five-year span and is needed for U.S. farm and agriculture programs to continue.

AVMA is championing a proactive approach to improving animal health and mitigating pest and disease outbreaks in this Farm Bill. We’re also supporting additional programs and research impacting veterinary interests and animal health, as outlined in our Farm Bill priorities.

The draft legislation pending in the House recognizes the importance of animal health by including several of these priorities, including:

  • A three-pronged approach to animal disease prevention and response:
    • A National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program to develop and implement strategies and technologies to combat animal pest and disease threats.
    • Mandatory funding for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), along with reauthorization of $15 million in appropriations.
    • A U.S.-only National Animal Health Vaccine Bank for high-consequence animal disease outbreaks, with immediate priority to Foot and Mouth Disease. The bill provides full funding of $250 million for these programs in fiscal year 2019: $70 million for the National Animal Health Program, $30 million for the NAHLN, and $150 million for the Vaccine Bank. Unfortunately, only $50 million per year is provided in fiscal years 2020-2023 ($30 million for the National Animal Health Program and $20 million to be divided at the agriculture secretary’s discretion).
  • Reauthorization of programs benefitting veterinary medicine within the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture, including the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank, Animal Health and Disease Research Program Grants, and competitive research grants within the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

This Farm Bill also would allow for development of a program to maintain veterinary emergency teams as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Accreditation Program.

Previous farm bills have given us valuable programs such as the Veterinary Services Grant Program, which was first authorized in 2014 and continues. We’re excited to see the 2018 Farm Bill further improve animal health through new authorizations and funding.

H.R. 2 is expected to be considered by the full House in the coming weeks. As with previous farm bills, debates surrounding proposed changes in nutrition programs threaten its future. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as SNAP or food stamps) makes up about 80 percent of farm bill spending.

The Senate, meanwhile, is drafting its own bill. If the House and Senate pass different pieces of legislation, the differences will need to be reconciled in a conference committee before a final bill is sent to the president to be signed. The current Farm Bill expires in September, so Congress is on a tight schedule to complete this important work.

The AVMA will continue working closely with Congress to ensure that veterinary priorities are included in the final bill. If you’d like information on opportunities to contact your lawmakers about the Farm Bill and other important policy issues, we encourage you to sign up for the AVMA Congressional Advocacy Network.

The House of Representatives’ website contains the full text of H.R. 2, a section-by-section summary, adopted amendments and committee members’ votes.

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