High-priority veterinary programs receive millions more in funding as fiscal 2015 budget allocates $147.6 billion to USDA


APHIS gets $49.5 million bump, but spending bill still prohibits funding for horse inspection activities.

If you didn't have time during the holiday rush to comb through the $1.1 trillion spending bill passed by Congress, here's your chance to quickly get caught up. Most notably, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which houses the majority of the veterinary and agriculture programs identified as high priorities by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), received $1.9 billion more than fiscal year 2014. Here's how the budget shakes out for key agencies according to the AVMA.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

>NIFA will be funded at $1.3 billion-$12 million more than in fiscal year 2014-to support research, extension and higher education in partnership with American universities.

>The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, a program within NIFA to provide student debt relief for veterinarians willing to work in shortage areas, received a funding bump from $4.7 to $5 million. The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act, which aims to eliminate the 39 percent federal withholding tax from the annual awards, was not brought before the last Congress for a vote, but will surely be reintroduced to the 114th Congress.

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS)

>ARS received a $10 million budget increase for 2015. It will now be funded at $1.1 billion to conduct basic and applied research to develop and transfer solutions to agricultural problems of national priority in a number of fields, including animal health. The AVMA says the spending bill rejected President Obama's request to terminate and redirect research programs and close certain research stations. Extramural research will continue to be funded at fiscal 2014 levels.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

>APHIS gains $49.5 million with its $874 million budget for fiscal 2015. The agency conducts inspections and quarantine activities to protect animals and plants from diseases and pests. Appropriators recommend $288 million for animal health, $305 million for plant health and $109 million for wildlife services. The bill includes $6.7 million in funding for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.

>APHIS' budget also includes $29 million to carry out key animal welfare activities. The spending bill upheld the prohibition of funds to pay for any horse inspection activities continuing the ban on horse slaughter and transport in the United States.

>Although the Prevent All Soring Tactics Act was not brought for a vote in the last Congressional session, AVMA says in fiscal year 2015 APHIS has been instructed to provide more written communication to judges who are conducting horse inspections at walking horse shows regarding the “scar rule,” which is when horses show evidence of previously being sored.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)

>FSIS, which works to ensure that the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry and egg products is safe, wholesome and correctly labeled and packaged, will be funded at $1 billion-a $5.8 million increase over last fiscal year's spending level.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

>FDA will be funded at $4.5 billion to regulate food, cosmetics, human and animal drugs, and medical devices, in fiscal 2015. This includes both $2.6 billion in direct appropriations and monies collected through user fees.

>Animal Drugs and Feeds funding will receive $147.5 million-a $6 million increase.

>Three million dollars is allocated to the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS), which serves as the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine's post-approval safety monitoring system for food animal antibiotics. The AVMA says FDA commissioner has also been directed through the spending bill to finalize its Veterinary Feed Directive rule prior to April 1, 2015.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH)

>NIH will receive $150 million more than in fiscal year 2014. In addition to its $30.1 billion funding, the bill provided NIH with $238 million in funding to help the country fight the global Ebola virus epidemic.

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