The new political scene in Washington, D.C., has implications for everyone, including pork producers and veterinarians. Mark Lutschaunig, director of the American Veterinary Medical Association Governmental Relations Division in Washington, D.C., offers some comments on the political climate in the nation’s capital and what he thinks about issues that will affect veterinarians and producers in the coming years.

“In the past, we’ve worked with both the Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate,” Lutschaunig says. “However, certain things are going to be more difficult. For example, I think it’s going to be very difficult to get an increase in funding for existing programs, such as the National Veterinary Medical Service Act, and even more difficult to obtain funding for new programs.”

Specific to President Barrack Obama’s designee, Tom Daschle, as the new head of the Department of Health and Human Services, “I do not anticipate changes in the way animal drugs are approved,” Lutschaunig says.

Expressing concern about the antimicrobial issue, “I anticipate that one of our biggest challenges this year will be the attempt to ban certain antimicrobials from use in food-animal medicine,” Lutschaunig says. “That’s going to come up in the first session of Congress. We’re going to have to work hard to educate members of Congress and their staffs about judicious antimicrobial use in food animals and why it’s critical for healthy animals and a safe food supply.”

Lutschaunig is optimistic about the Obama administration’s USDA appointee. “As the former governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack understands the challenges facing animal agriculture and rural communities,” he notes. “We look forward to working with USDA Secretary Vilsack and his team on initiatives such as the shortage of food-animal veterinarians and the shortage of veterinarians working in rural America.”

Lutschaunig believes the Humane Society of the United States will increase its visibility in Washington. “Overall, HSUS has been working very hard in the past few years on the political side, getting members of Congress elected who are favorable to its policy positions,” he says. “In this Congress we’ll see more HSUS initiatives come forward, especially in the area of food-animal welfare.”