Veterinarians pay tribute to Veneman

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Washington—In the wake of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman's resignation from her Cabinet post, leaders in organized veterinary medicine praise the Bush administration heavyweight for supporting the profession.

WASHINGTON-In the wake of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman's resignation from her Cabinet post, leaders in organized veterinary medicine praise the Bush administration heavyweight for supporting the profession.

Veneman, a lawyer by trade, ranks as the nation's first woman to head the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). At presstime, Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns had been named to take over the post (see related story).

"Certainly AVMA wishes the secretary well in whatever venture she goes into," says Dr. Michael Chaddock, director of the American Veterinary Medical Association's (AVMA) Governmental Relations Division. "Over her four-year tenure, we've been pleased with her leadership. She actually wrote a letter to Congress urging them to support the National Veterinary Medical Services Act, and was instrumental in its passage. She's been very friendly to AVMA."

The act, which passed in 2003, authorizes an education loan repayment program for veterinarians opting to work in rural, underserved areas in the United States.

While in office

Among the secretary's accomplishments, Veneman reversed a plan for the transfer of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) from USDA to the Department of Homeland Security. She adopted safeguards against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and other emerging foreign animal diseases as well as led the agency's handling of the first positive BSE diagnosis in the United States last year.

In November, the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) was implemented under Veneman's watch to trace animal movements in case of animal-disease outbreaks. The plan received substantial government funding.

In Congress

Veneman championed the Animal Health Protection Act, passed in 2002, which consolidates and revises statutes relating to USDA's authority to handle animal-health concerns. Committed to building an animal health infrastructure in the United States, Veneman also worked to create the National Centers for Animal Health, located in Ames, Iowa.

Although Veneman was not a veterinarian, she appointed Ron DeHaven, DVM, to administrate the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, charged with handling the first BSE case in the United States.

Industry reaction

For Veneman's work, the National Institute of Animal Agriculture (NIAA) offers praise.

"We are thankful for the progress Secretary Veneman and her associates have made for agriculture in safeguarding animal health and food safety," NIAA President Glenn Slack says. "Ultimately, our industry is better prepared for disease prevention and response because of that."

While the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) call the challenge's facing USDA "historic," Veneman will be remembered as a "solid leader and a trusted friend."

"I will miss working with her," NCBA President Jan Lyons says. "I know her work will be appreciated for generations."

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