USDA Announces $2.4 Million in Competitive Grants to Relieve Veterinary Shortages

May 26, 2016
Amy Karon, DVM, MPH

The USDA will funnel $2.4 million in competitive grants for veterinary education, extension programs, training, and direct support to set up or expand practices in underserved rural areas of the United States, the agency announced May 9.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) will funnel $2.4 million in competitive grants for veterinary education, extension programs, training, and direct support to set up or expand practices in underserved rural areas of the United States, the agency announced May 9.

The grants will be administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Veterinary Services Grant Program (VSPG), which was created to address factors beyond educational debt that are contributing to veterinary medical shortages in agricultural and rural areas, Danielle Tack, DVM, MPVM, DACVPM, of the Division of Animal Systems at NIFA, said in an interview.

The educational, extension, and training grants are meant to “support activities for veterinarians and veterinary technicians, helping them gain the specialized skills to address shortages in parts of the country,” NIFA director Sonny Ramaswamy said in an accompanying statement. These grants will range from $75,000 to $250,000 each, supporting two to four years of either traditional or non-traditional learning opportunities, Dr. Tack added. “We are looking for innovative ways for applicants to educate and train veterinarians, veterinary technicians, or other health professionals to strengthen veterinary programs and enhance food safety.”

Meanwhile, one-time grants to set up or expand rural veterinary practices will be of $75,000 to $125,000 each, for projects lasting three to four years, according to the VSGP request for applications (RFA). Applicants can request that all funds cover equipment purchases, but each piece of equipment must cost at least $5,000, the RFA states.

Ultimately, the educational grants should help expand a variety of training opportunities for veterinarians and allied professionals -- including new residency, fellowship, internship, or externship programs, certificate and other non-degree programs, and continuing education or extension courses designed to “help alleviate shortage situations,” said Dr. Tack.

To apply for private practice support, veterinarians must be located in rural shortage areas as designated by the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program. For 2016, these areas exist in all states except Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Michigan, Alabama, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Geographic details are available at the VMLRP website.

Eligible applicants for educational grants include AVMA-recognized organizations and boards, accredited veterinary medical schools, university research or veterinary medical foundations, departments of veterinary science or comparative medicine, agricultural experiment stations, and government agencies, according to the RFA. Grant applications are due Friday, June 17, 2016.

The VSGP was authorized in 2014 under the U.S. Farm Bill, and initial funding was appropriated in the 2016 fiscal year budget. The budget is set annually, and it is unclear how funding may changes in 2017, according to Dr. Tack.

Dr. Amy Karon earned her doctorate in veterinary medicine and master’s degrees in public health and journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was an infectious disease epidemiologist and “disease detective” (EIS officer) with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before becoming a full-time medical writer. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area, where she volunteers for the local Humane Society.