Fall 2018
FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 Supports, Coordinates Veterinary Emergency Management Teams

On October 5th, President Trump signed the "FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018" into law. This bill recognizes the critical role veterinarians play in mitigating the effects of natural disasters and infectious animal disease outbreaks. It includes language authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to "establish one or more veterinary emergency teams at accredited colleges of veterinary medicine." It also calls for improved federal agency coordination. Section 1218 calls for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture to coordinate with veterinary emergency teams based at colleges of veterinary medicine to bolster national preparedness and response efforts.

Schools and colleges can train students on emergency medicine and response as well as form teams to work with state, local and tribal officials in developing plans for evacuation and animal care during disasters. These teams will respond alongside local, state and national response organizations to care for search and rescue canines, companion animals and livestock impacted by disasters. Several colleges already have this capability in varying degrees, but the national program will bolster capacity in all communities.
Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, among others, illustrated the importance of uniform state-wide animal/veterinary response capabilities. Following Ike, the Texas Animal Health Commission requested Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine develop an emergency response capability targeted at addressing the needs of animals during disasters. The Texas A&M Veterinary Emergency Team (VET) was formed in 2009 and has deployed to every large-scale disaster in Texas since. With the guidance and partnership of Texas Task Force 1 (TX-TF1), one of the 28 FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Teams, the Texas A&M VET has built a self-sustainable, all-hazards and all-species veterinary medical team staffed with Texas A&M faculty, staff, and students. TX-TF1 can serve as a model for developing emergency response teams at other colleges.
 The bill also contains other key provisions:
  • It incorporates the working dog bill from Representative Mike Rogers (R-Alabama), with a few minor modifications
  • Section 437 of the bill requires DOT to issue a rule defining what qualifies as a service animal, including minimum performance standards for qualification
  • The bill includes some of the Texas A&M sought language on disaster assistance for animals, and the roles that our members can play
Administration Announces Plans to Relocate NIFA & ERS

On August 9, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced plans to relocate the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Economic Research Service (ERS). The Secretary invited public comment on the proposal by September 15, 2018 with the goal of moving the agencies by July of 2019. No specific rationale has been shared regarding the reasons for the move, but many stakeholders have expressed concerns.

Here's what's happened and where we are at this point: 
  • Secretary Perdue's letter solicited expressions of interest by September 15.
  • The AAVMC joined with NCFAR, APLU and several other organizations in sending a list of questions regarding the move to the USDA and key Members of Congress on September 5. This group also met with Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Steve Censky on September 6.
  • On September 7, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) sent a letter to Secretary Perdue with 12 questions about the move.
  • Maryland and Virginia Senators sent letters at the same time opposing the move, and Rep. Norton (D-DC) requested a joint hearing on the proposal on September 10.
  • Secretary Perdue sent a reply to the Senate on September 25, and USDA extended the deadline for expressions of interest another 30 days, to October 15.
No word yet about the status of this, but stakeholder opposition continues to grow. Opposition from scientists and other stakeholders is centered on the fact that the agencies' Washington location enables them to:
  • More easily inform public policy decisions with agricultural research data
  • Work more closely with legislators and other federal agencies
  • Work more closely with the national scientific community based in the national capital region
Slow but Sure Progress Noted on H-1B Visa Issue
The AAVMC continues to work with federal agencies to sort out complications with the H-1B visa process. Problems satisfying Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Labor requests for prevailing wage data and other information required for visas has made it difficult for members to hire and onboard international faculty and residents.

Staffers from both the AAVMC and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) have met with federal officials several times over the past several months to address the issue. Some progress is being made. DHS is playing a coordinating a role with the Department of Labor and schools of the health professions experiencing these problems.

A few weeks ago, DHS contacted the AAVMC and asked us to query our members to assess the status of the current situation. We are working with AAVMC Senior Director for Institutional Research and Diversity Dr. Lisa Greenhill, as well as colleagues in other schools of the health professions to conduct this survey over the next few weeks so we can respond quickly to DHS.

We will apprise as soon as additional information is available.

Farm Bill Delayed, Existing Bill Expired September 30

The House of Representatives adjourned until after the elections without reaching an agreement on a new five-year Farm Bill. The current Farm Bill expired on September 30. House and Senate conferees hope to agree on language for a new bill that can be passed during the "lame duck" session, which occurs after the November elections and before the end of 2018. Along with AVMA, the AAVMC is supporting several priorities in both the House and Senate versions of the new legislation.

These include:
  • A national Animal Pest, Disease and Disaster Prevention Program
  • A new national livestock vaccine bank
  • New funding and enhancements to the National Animal Health Laboratory Network
  • Reauthorization and continued funding for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR)
There are many issues left to be resolved. Chief among these are House bill provisions adding work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. If no agreement can be reached during the lame duck, the new Congress must begin the process all over again.
Administration Passes Four Appropriations Bills, Partial Continuing Resolution
On September 28, President Trump signed HR 6157 into law, a package of four appropriations bills that funds most of the federal government. This package includes funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.  It did not include funding for the Department of Agriculture. The legislation also included a Continuing Resolution (CR) for the remaining appropriations bills, which supports operations through December 7. This means that no portion of the government will be in danger of shutting down until several weeks after the election.

The bill included several major increases for critical programs, including:  A $2 billion (5.4 percent) increase for NIH. Within that total, there is $550 million (an increase of $37 million) for combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria. When Congress returns after the election, they must pass the remainder of the appropriations bills or another continuing resolution (CR) before December 7. The President continues to press for at least $5 billion or more to construct a border wall with Mexico, and this funding continues to face opposition from Democrats in both the House and Senate.

National Institute of Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education (NIAMRRE) Up and Running
AAVMC and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) officials continue to engage with Iowa State University officials and others on the development of the new National Institute of Antimicrobial Resistance Research and Education (NIAMRRE). The institute was established at Iowa State University as the result of a joint Task Force on Antibiotic Resistance in Production Agriculture that AAVMC and APLU created in 2014. The group released a report the following year that offered an array of research and education recommendations designed to address the problem.

The institute is led by Executive Director Dr. Paul Plummer of Iowa State University (ISU). Over 100 research faculty with expertise in a variety of scientific disciplines from multiple academic institutions are allied with ISU in the effort.

Partners include the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the University of Iowa, and the Mayo Medical Clinic. The institute is also partnering with two major USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) facilities, as well as a collection of agricultural stakeholders representing over one-fourth of the U.S. swine and beef industry.

Click here to see a communication which presents more information regarding the initiative.
Programs at Five AAVMC Institutions Funded by VSGP
Four AAVMC member institutions and one affiliate are among the universities funded during the most recent distribution of Veterinary Service Grants Program (VSGP) Awards. Those include the University of Georgia, Iowa State University, Texas A&M University, Michigan State University, and Pennsylvania State University (affiliate).

Those institutional grants were among 14 recently announced by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). They included  seven Education, Extension and Training grants and seven Rural Practice Enhancement grants to help mitigate veterinary service shortages in the United States.

This program is designed to support education and extension activities that enable veterinarians, veterinary students, and veterinary technicians to gain specialized skills and practices. The Agricultural Act of 2014 authorized the establishment of the VSGP as a companion to the Veterinary Medical Loan Repayment Program to incentivize service in areas underserved by veterinarians. Ultimately, VSGP will bolster the capacity of private veterinary practitioners to provide food animal veterinary services in rural areas.

Remembering Tip O'Neill: "All Politics is Local"

Many AAVMC member institutions deans are used to participating in the AAVMC's Advocacy Day, when leaders from academic veterinary medicine spend a day on Capitol Hill meeting with lawmakers and staff. But government relations is a 24/7 job, and it also makes sense to meet with Representatives and Senators in their home districts when possible. The pace is often more relaxed than the frenetic vibes of Capitol Hill, plus the Members feel that special sense of serving the people right there in the areas they serve. Here, University of California - Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Dean and AAVMC President-Elect Dr. Michael Lairmore (right) meets with Congressman John Garamendi (D -CA 3rd) in his home district. Also pictured is Dr. Donald J. Klingborg (left), an emeriti professor from UC-D and AVMA member.

AAVMC Again Helps Sponsor Pet Night on Capitol Hill
Congressman Kurt Schrader

More than 400 guests, including about a dozen Members of Congress, were on hand to celebrate Pet Night on Capitol Hill on September 6. The event attracts lawmakers and staff, animal health industry officials, and other pet aficionados to celebrate the myriad benefits of the human/animal bond.

Sponsored chiefly by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and the Pet Leadership Council (PLC), the evening included a variety of demonstrations and presentations. More than a dozen Members of Congress were presented "Pet's Best Friend" awards in recognition of their support for pet-friendly legislation and the 10th annual "Cutest Pets on Capitol Hill" awards were presented.

Veterinary Caucus Co-Chairs Senator Kurt Schrader (D-Oregon) and Ted Yoho (R-Florida) were on hand for the event and shared remarks. The AAVMC has helped sponsor the event for the past several years, according to Government Affairs Director Kevin Cain.

Advocacy Letters
The AAVMC signed on to the following advocacy letters designed to advance positions of interest to academic veterinary medicine.

Letter Supporting Section 3207 Farm Bill Provisions for building FFA and 4-H Capacity in Developing Countries

Letter Supporting Increased Research and Stewardship for Antimicrobial Resistance

Letter to House and Senate Agriculture Leadership Expressing Support for Farm Bill

Letter to House and Senate Agriculture Leadership Expressing Support for Agriculture Research, Extension and Education

Letter to Senate Conferees Supporting National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program

Letter to House Appropriations Committee Leadership Regarding proposed NIFA, ERS Relocation

Letter to Farm Bill Conferees Expressing Support for Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR)

Letter to Congress Opposing Relocation of NIFA Outside of National Capitol Region

Letter to Secretary of Agriculture Opposing Relocation of NIFA Outside of National Capitol Region

Letter Supporting TEPLSF Student Loan Debt Relief Program

Letter to House Appropriations Committee Leadership Regarding proposed NIFA, ERS Relocation

Letter Supporting Hutchins as USDA Undersecretary for REE

Letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos supporting PSLF

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

Association of American Veterinary
Medical Colleges

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