Sens. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Thad Cochran (Miss.) this week introduced the 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.
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 percent to 16 percent over the next seven years, but the rate of veterinarian school graduates is projected to decrease by 4 percent to 5 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.