The Hill, a congressional newspaper based in Washington, D.C., published an op-ed on Friday by the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, highlighting the need for Congress to pass a Farm Bill so that veterinarians and scientists can continue ensuring the safety of the nation’s food supply and guarding against diseases that impact animal and public health. The op-ed comes only a day after AVMA, along with 531 other organizations representing all facets of U.S. agriculture, sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) urging him to bring the House’s version of the Farm Bill back to the floor for consideration.
The op-ed, which The Hill published Friday on its Congress Blog, is available below:
Veterinarians need a Farm Bill, too
By: AVMA’s Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Dr. W. Ron DeHaven
The U.S. House’s recent vote to strike down its own version of the Farm Bill is a major defeat to veterinarians and scientists who work on the front lines every day to ensure the safety of our food supply and guard our nation against diseases that impact animal and public health. Essential veterinary programs that rely on this legislation are stuck in limbo until Congress takes action.
Our nation’s food security relies on the important scientific and diagnostic work that shields against foreign animal diseases and the threats of agro-terrorism attacks. This is why we were encouraged to see that the recent House Farm Bill (H.R. 1947) and its companion Senate bill (S. 954) authorized Congress to provide the necessary funding for our nation’s animal disease surveillance program—the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN). The NAHLN works to detect emerging and zoonotic diseases so we can better protect public and animal health.
And just as we can’t let our guard down against diseases, we must continue to support programs that help us learn even more about the animal diseases that could devastate livestock and animal agriculture. By giving our nation’s scientists the resources they need to conduct innovative food and agriculture research, we can enhance animal health and production and protect food safety.
AVMA supports research grants to the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative and the Animal Health and Disease Research Formula Funds, which were included in both the House and Senate Farm Bills. These programs enhance America’s knowledge and expertise in animal diseases. In addition, we supported the Senate’s leadership in S. 954 for establishing both a new Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research, which would foster continued innovation in agricultural research, and a Farm Animal Agriculture Integrated Research Initiative. This initiative would create a competitive grants program that promotes food security and examines the interrelationship between animal and human health as well as environmental stewardship.
These programs all help ensure that veterinarians and livestock producers can better address health issues before they arise on the farm. They will better assure that everyone consuming American-produced meat and dairy products is getting the safest and highest quality products on the market. We were encouraged that both chambers of Congress saw fit to extend authorization for the Food and Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD), which enables veterinary scientists to provide vital information to producers to keep milk, meat and eggs free of drug and chemical residues.
Improving food safety means we cannot ignore the pockets of the country that are in need of veterinary services. AVMA applauded both the Senate and House for including a new veterinary services grant program in their Farm Bills that would have served a variety of purposes, from establishing or expanding mobile veterinary practices to recruiting veterinarians and technicians to supporting food safety or food animal medicine training programs.
The Farm Bill touches so many aspects of our nation’s food supply, from the crops that are grown to the livestock that is raised to the nutrition programs that provide meals to millions of Americans.
We applaud the Senate for its hard work in recognizing the need to pass a comprehensive, bipartisan Farm Bill this year with its passage of S. 954. In addition, we commend House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) for passing H.R. 1947 out of committee with bipartisan support. Now it’s time for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership team to stop stalling on this important legislation that touches every aspect of America’s food supply.
We cannot compromise America’s first-line of defense against animal disease outbreaks that could have crippling public health and economic consequences. Veterinarians and scientists need a Farm Bill in order to keep animal diseases outside our borders and off of our dinner plates.
Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, DVM, MBA, is the executive vice president and chief executive officer for the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and is the former administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).