Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) today introduced the bipartisan Veterinary Services Investment Act. The legislation would help address the shortage of veterinarians in rural agricultural areas by supporting veterinary education and rural recruitment. Many of the targeted areas to benefit from the legislation specialize in livestock and other large animals, whose health is integral to the safety of consumer food products.
"Veterinary services are critical in ensuring a strong and robust agricultural industry in Michigan, and too many rural areas are lacking adequate support," Chairwoman Stabenow said. "This legislation will address vet shortages while also creating good-paying jobs, improving food safety and continuing to strengthen Michigan's agricultural sector which supports one in four jobs in Michigan. As Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I'm focused on helping our agricultural sector to continue to grow and create jobs, and this bill will help to do that."
"Veterinary care shortages, particularly in rural areas, can pose security risks for food safety, animal health and public health. This legislation would help alleviate those shortages by awarding grants to support growth in areas where veterinary services are most needed," Senator Cochran said. "It is written to create incentives for veterinary schools and their students to work in areas that currently lack important access to animal health care."
"I applaud Chairwoman Stabenow and Senator Cochran for leading on such a critical issue -- this bill is good for veterinarians in Michigan, agriculture in Michigan and it adds tremendous value to our rural areas that are lacking sufficient vet services," said Dr. Jim Lloyd, Associate Dean at Michigan State University's College of Veterinary Medicine and former President of the Michigan Veterinary Medical Association. "Beyond helping to create and expand opportunities for both public health vets and rural vets in Michigan, this bill will create jobs and will ultimately benefit consumers everywhere who rely on a safe and strong agriculture industry for daily food needs."
The Veterinary Services Investment Act would create a competitive grant program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and would allow states to customize their own veterinary programs in accordance with the needs in rural and underserved areas of that state. According to an American Veterinary Medical Association study, the demand for food supply veterinarians will increase by 12 to 16 percent over the next seven years, but the rate of veterinarian school graduates is projected to decrease by four to five percent annually, over the same period.
Grant-eligible entities would include rural veterinary clinics, state veterinary medical associations, and accredited veterinary schools. Preference would be given to those applicants demonstrating a plan to meet veterinary workforce or food protection needs.
The Veterinary Services Investment Act (S. 1053) is supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Animal Health Institute. The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Kent Conrad (D- ND), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Mark Udall (D-CO).