Congressman Leonard Boswell, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry, held a hearing to find out why USDA has not implemented the National Veterinary Medical Service Act (Public Law No: 108-161). 

NVMSA gave the USDA Secretary 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 Dec. 6, 2003, and USDA received funding to set up the program in Fiscal Years 2006 to 2008, but USDA has not moved forward to implement that program.

The subcommittee heard testimony from Congressman Jack Kingston of Georgia, Gail Buchanan, DVM, USDA under scretary for Research, Education and Economics, and Gregory Hammer, DVM, 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," said Boswell. "With the average veterinary student graduating with more than $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, USDA has failed to implement the act as 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 House committee's Web site. A full transcript of the hearing will be posted there.

Source: U.S. House Committee on Agriculture