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Program for Food-Animal Vet Care Seeks Help from Congress

October 18, 2017

To keep their livestock animals healthy and productive, our nation's farmers and ranchers have always depended on local veterinarians to provide care for food animals. Without access to adequate veterinary care, America's food source is at risk for dangerous diseases. Additionally, unexpected outbreaks could destroy livestock herds and threaten many rural economies. Unfortunately, a shortage of veterinarians exist in more than one hundred fifty rural communities where livestock is currently being raised.

Farmers and ranchers in regions where veterinarians in public practice specialize in livestock animals are asking Congress to provide relief. The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act (S. 487/H.R. 1268) would help ensure underserved areas receive the veterinary care needed by increasing student loan repayment opportunities. Presently, the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) provides selected food animal veterinarians up to $75,000 in loan repayment in exchange for serving at least three years in a federally-designated shortage area.

This repayment program has been the primary incentive for young veterinarians to serve in shortage areas. Since the program’s inception, 388 awards have been made to veterinarians who have answered the call for public service. On an annual (or as needed) basis, National Institute of Food and Agriculture releases a federal notice soliciting nominations from all State Animal Health Officials for veterinary shortage situations. Currently, each state is allotted a maximum number of nominations that can be submitted each year. 

Despite the success of the federal program, about 75 percent of shortage areas remain unfilled because of limited funding for the VMLRP program. As a concerned citizen, notify your Congressman or Senator that you consider his or her support to be critical to solving the problem of underserved veterinary services for America's food animals.

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