Lawmakers get back to legislative calendar; bills affecting veterinary medicine up for debate
Washington-As Congress embarks on its pre-Sept. 11 legislativeagenda, proponents of FARAD celebrate a recent $800,000 funding measure- the largest award in the program's 18-year history.
Monies for the Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank come as part ofa $75.9 billion agriculture appropriations package for 2002.
FARAD, a computer-based decision support system backed by the UnitedStates Department of Agriculture (USDA), is designed to provide livestockproducers and veterinarians with information on how to avoid drug, pesticideand environmental contaminant problems in food animals. The database providesinformation on which drugs legally can be used in food animals and helpsensure that producers are in compliance with Food and Drug Administration(FDA) regulations.
The program likely was saved by lawmakers scrambling to address securityand antiterrorism defense measures as cutbacks had all but shut down thefood safety operation, says Dr. Niall Finnegan, director of AVMA's GovernmentalRelations Division.
"We're really excited about all this," he says. "The programwas severely neglected for years."
Million dollar moves
Also included within the agriculture appropriations bill is $40 millionfor the first phase of facility consolidation and modernization of the NationalVeterinary Services Laboratory, the National Animal Disease Center and theCenter for Veterinary Biologics in Ames, Iowa.
More than $15,000 in the bill was designated for the Animal and PlantHealth Inspection Service (APHIS) Animal Care program.
Now under congressional review
Highlights of legislation currently under consideration include the FarmBill, which passed as House Bill 2646 but was pulled by Senate MajorityLeader Tom Daschle in December due to a stalemate on farm subsidies. TheSenate is expected to continue debating the measure this month, but lobbyistssay they aren't optimistic about its passage.
Proponents want a farm bill enacted to guarantee that $73 billion innew funding is set aside for agriculture over the next decade. As written,the bill also bans the interstate movement of birds for the purpose of fighting.The anti-cockfighting language comes from legislation sponsored by Sen.Wayne Allard, a Colorado veterinarian.
Legislation scheduled for session two
The 107th Congress will consider in the coming months the Animal HealthProtection Act, a bill to consolidate animal quarantine and related laws,some of which date back to the 1800s.
The bill also enables the secretary of agriculture, through APHIS, toperform duties necessary to protect the U.S. food animal supply from foreignpests and diseases.
· The Veterinary Health Enhancement Act provides debt assistanceor scholarship programs to veterinary students agreeing to work post-graduationin DVM-deficient locations. In response to recent bioterrorism threats,the bill's sponsors recognize the need for disease surveillance in veterinarian-needyareas.
· The Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Health Act of 2001 providesincentives for drug companies to develop FDA-authorized drugs for uncommonanimal disease conditions in major species and for conditions in minor specieswhere therapies are unavailable.
· Reinstating the Star Rank for the Chief of the Army VeterinaryCorps is a bill introduced by Allard and lobbied for by the AVMA's NiallFinnegan. If passed, it would dedicate a military star distributed by theU.S. Army Surgeon General to the chief of the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps.