The American Veterinary Medical Association has established the Food-Animal Veterinarian Recruitment and Retention Program to provide student loan debt forgiveness to veterinarians who commit to four years of employment in food-animal veterinary medicine.

AVMA’s program goal is to support 50 rural food-animal veterinarians over the next five years by providing total payments for each practitioner up to $100,000 that can be applied to student loan debt.

This follows USDA's announcement of the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, to assist food-animal veterinary students in a similar manner. It requires a two-year commitment in a food-animal production area suffering from veterinary shortages. USDA’s program will soon start accepting applications. The two programs will complement each other, says Ron DeHaven, DVM, AVMA’s chief executive officer.

"The AVMA has been working on Capitol Hill for years to generate attention, pass legislation and fund programs that would directly address the food-animal veterinarian shortage, and we are very pleased that the federal loan repayment program is seeing the light of day," DeHaven said in news release. "But we also know that we can't rely solely on government funding."

According to AVMA, more than half of all food-animal veterinarians are more than 50 years old. Meanwhile, only about 15 percent of veterinary school graduates are considering food-animal practices. What’s more, the average school debt load is $120,000. Studies project the supply of food-related veterinarians will fall shot by 4 percent to 5 percent annually through 2016.

"We're facing an impending crisis, and action is required to make sure that our country has enough of these professionals working for the benefit of society," DeHaven said.

Source: AVMA