Winter 2019
Shutdown Grinding the Gears of Government

Effects of the longest shutdown in U.S. government history continue to affect the lives of millions of Americans, directly and indirectly, in myriad ways. Here's how things are affecting key programs within the USDA:
  • Wildlife monitoring and testing capabilities have been severely limited. The ability to quickly respond to any sort of animal disease outbreak could be affected, as fewer personnel are available.
  • FDA and USDA have both had to reduce food safety inspections, though FDA has called back some employees to work unpaid, designating them as critical to the nation's food supply.
  • Any new grants or the processing of payments for existing grants to support research, education and extension have been stopped during the shutdown. These include the Veterinary Services Grant Program.
As we prepare this newsletter, it remains unclear if the President's State of the Union address will be postponed. We have signed onto a letter that highlights the health impacts of the shutdown (see below).
AAVMC Legislative Agenda

We have not finalized our priorities for the year. This is largely because appropriations for FY2019 are not done, and we generally use that as a baseline for our requests for FY 2020. The Veterinary Medicine Caucus will be reconstituted for the 116th Congress. Work continues.

Preparations Underway for Advocacy Day

Preparations are underway for our annual Advocacy Day, which will be held on Thursday, March 7, the day before the annual conference begins. Please mark your calendars and plan on participating. Last year 72 educators representing 27 states made the trek to Capitol Hill, where 138 meetings were held with scores of Congressional offices. With so many new Members, this is an especially important year for us to make sure the contributions and needs of academic veterinary medicine are well understood on the Hill.
Appropriations Situation Still Unfolding

House Democrats have prepared a six-bill appropriations package that includes final FY 2019 funding for USDA, as well as five other agencies. The committee report also directs USDA to include all cost estimates associated with the proposed moves of NIFA and ERS to be included in the FY 2020 budget request. Additionally, USDA is directed to indefinitely delay the move of ERS to the Office of the Chief Economist. The legislation provides $8 million for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) and $3 million for the Veterinary Services Grant Program (VSGP), an increase of $500,000 over FY 2018. The package leaves out funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is where the $5.7 billion for any border wall would be allocated.

116th Congress Getting Organized, Making Committee Assignments
With 11 new Senators and 100 new Representatives elected, it's taking a little more time for the Senate and House to organize and populate committees. We are making plans to develop relationships with key committee members and leaders.

The Senate has completed organization for the 116th Congress. Committee assignments can be found here.
The House of Representatives has not yet made final assignments for all committees. This is due to the large number of new Members, as well as the change in control from Republicans to Democrats. Committee assignments are expected to be completed before the annual Democratic retreat, which takes places Feb. 13-15. The full calendar for the House is set by the majority leader, and can be found here.

Supporting Dr. Scott Hutchins for USDA Undersecretary of REE

The AAVMC is supporting the nomination of Dr. Scott Hutchins to be Undersecretary of Research, Education and Economics (REE) at USDA. However, because the Senate failed to act on his nomination before the end of the 115th Congress, his nomination is being resubmitted (See sign-on letter below).
NIAMREE Laying Groundwork in Washington
In early December, representatives from the National Institute of Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education (NIAMRRE) met with a series of Washington D.C. officials and agencies on Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR). Led by NIAMRRE Executive Director Dr. Paul Plummer, the delegation also included AAVMC Governmental Affairs Director Kevin Cain, APLU Senior Associate Director Eddie Gouge, Iowa State University Director of Federal Relations Director Sophia Magill and University of Nebraska Federal Relations coordinator Jacob Dowd. The group held meetings with J. Scott Angle, Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and officials with the Animal Health Institute (AHI). The goal was to foster relationships and develop support for NIAMRRE's AMR work. NIAMRRE was created from a multi-year collaboration with APLU on the AMR problem.

AVMA Public Policy Symposium

Governmental Affairs Director Kevin Cain represented the AAVMC at the AVMA Public Policy Symposium in Chicago on January 10, held in conjunction with the annual Veterinary Leadership Conference. The symposium was designed to assist state VMAs, and any others in veterinary leadership, in understanding the importance of advocacy, as well as providing advice and information about successful advocacy strategies. The symposium lasted a full day and included guest speakers from other health professions, as well as a workshop activity to design advocacy strategies around particular issues, such as marijuana laws and telemedicine. The symposium was standing room only ... a powerful statement about the importance of advocacy and public policy decisions in the future success of the profession.

Farm Bill Now Law
The $867 billion Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) is now law. Here's what it means for academic veterinary medicine:
  • The authorized appropriation for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) is increased from the current $15 million, up to $30 million from FY 2019-2023.
  • The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) is funded at $185 million, once it submits a strategic plan to Congress explaining how it will become self-sustaining.
  • Beginning in FY 2023, at least $18 million will be allocated in mandatory funding for a new National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program.
  • The Pet and Women Safety Act (PAWS) language was included in the final conference report. The new law calls for the creation of a grant program for domestic violence shelters to fund programs and services that help domestic violence survivors seeking safe shelter for or with their pets.
AAVMC an Important Link in Healthcare Advocacy Coalitions

AAVMC Governmental Affairs Director Kevin Cain is serving on the newly formed 10-member Executive Committee of the Health Professions and Nursing Education Coalition (HPNEC). That advocacy group represents physicians, veterinarians, nurses, physician assistants, psychologists, public health leaders and other groups. Cain also helped present a webinar on communicating with new Members of Congress for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). Just prior to the mid-terms, Cain participated in a webinar titled "Don't Get Spooked: What the Mid-Terms Mean for Higher Education. Sponsored by Thompson Coburn LLP, the webinar explored how election outcomes might affect the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, implications for 2020 education spending and potential changes in regulation and oversight of the U.S. Department of Education.
Advocacy Letters
The AAVMC signed on to the following advocacy letters designed to advance positions of interest to academic veterinary medicine.

Hutchins Nomination Support Letter
Letter to the President on Shutdown
PSLF Coalition Letter
Farm Bill Letter

Please contact: AAVMC Governmental Affairs Director Kevin Cain at or 202-371-9195 (ext. 117) with any comments, questions and suggestions about our program.

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