Cowboys, veterinarians unite on health issues
Ranchers across the nation know of the importance of disease eradication and the role veterinarians play in the health of their industry, and the nation is experiencing a shortage of large-animal veterinarians. While cuts are being made in the 2012 Farm Bill, six organizations have united to defend health provisions within the Livestock Title and the Research and Related Matters titles of the bill. (See related article, page 1D, for more information related to the Livestock Title.)
These groups address the importance of being prepared in the event of an animal disease outbreak and the need to fund programs that would promote large-animal veterinarians in the country.
Among the organizations are the American Horse Council, the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians, the National Assembly of State Animal Health Officials, the National Farmers Union, the U.S. Animal Health Association, and the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, which sent a joint letter April 10 to four ranking members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Frank D. Lucas, chairman, House Committee on Agriculture, and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, chairman of the Committee on Agriculture.
Focusing on the Research and Related Matters Title in the Farm Bill, estimated at $321 million in the 2008 Bill, the groups asked Congress for assistance in funding.
One program identified in the letter was funding support in the event of equine disease outbreaks, such as equine herpesvirus myeloencephalopathy (EHV-1).
“These outbreaks,” according to the letter, “put U.S. horses and the industry at considerable risk, particularly if these disease outbreaks and incidents continue to intensify in frequency and magnitude.”
Last May, the deaths of 11 horses were linked to the EHV-1 virus after the National Cutting Horse Association event in Ogden, Utah. See “Equine disease linked to 11 deaths,” June 9, 2011.
In the Research and Related Matters section, the groups ask for the reauthorization of provisions to the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program and the Veterinary Services Investment Act.
According to a May 24, 2011, American Veterinary Medical Association press release, “there are 500 counties in the United States that have at least 5,000 farm animals but no veterinarians in the area to treat them.
“‘The demand for veterinarians across the United States could increase by 14 percent by 2016,’ said Dr. Kornegay. ‘This shortage not only affects the well-being of farmers and livestock but can have negative public health consequences.’”
Both programs are designed to address the veterinarian shortage across the country. The first, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture website, “would pay up to $25,000 each year towards qualified educational loans of eligible veterinarians who agree to serve in a NIFA [National Institute of Food and Agriculture] designated veterinarian shortage situations for a period of three years.” The Veterinary Services Investment Act offers a competitive grant program to assist in the large-animal veterinarian shortage in the United States.
The groups “support the above programs as a means to ensure the continued success and viability for a $160 billion industry. We urge Congress to pass a 2012 Farm Bill that clearly and concisely outlines the critical programs to the livestock industry in a succinct and non-controversial package of provisions in the next Farm Bill.”