Chairman Frank Lucas issued the following statement after the four principals met today to discuss outstanding issues relating to the farm bill.
Subcommittee Reviews the Status of the National Veterinary Medical Service Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Leonard Boswell, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, held a hearing to find out why the U.S. Department of Agriculture has not implemented the National Veterinary Medical Service Act (Public Law No: 108-161).
The National Veterinary Medical Service Act (NVMSA) gave the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to establish a student loan repayment program for veterinarians who agree to work in areas with limited or no access to veterinary care. It was signed into law on December 6, 2003, and USDA received funding to set up the program in Fiscal Years 2006-2008, but USDA has not moved forward to implement that program.
The subcommittee heard testimony from Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia, Dr. Gail Buchanan, USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics, and Dr. Gregory Hammer, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“Having spent most my life involved in animal agriculture and on occasion having had to employ a veterinarian, I understand many of the issues that affect the industry first hand,” Chairman Boswell said. “With the average veterinary student graduating with over $100,000 in debt they are looking for high paying jobs. The National Veterinary Medical Service Act was created to repay loans for veterinarians who practice in underserved areas. However, the USDA has failed to implement the Act the way Congress had intended. USDA needs to put the program into operation, and work with Congress along with veterinary schools, to figure out how we get more veterinarians to work in underserved areas.”
“In crafting this Act in 2003, the Committee worked closely with USDA to ensure proper implementation of a simple and straightforward program that would allow USDA to offer incentives to large animal veterinarians to practice in underserved rural communities,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Robin Hayes. “It is frustrating that four years later, USDA is now bringing concerns to our attention. I am certainly willing to roll up my sleeves and work to resolve any issues, and I hope that we can figure out a way to quickly move this program forward.”
Witness testimony is available on the Committee website, and a full transcript of the hearing will be posted on the Committee website.